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VRE considers improvements
VRE to address security, Wi-Fi and the Spotsylvania station and third track at this week's meeting.


Date published: 5/17/2012

BY SCOTT SHENK

The Virginia Railway Express Operations Board will take up a few issues this week that riders might be interested in: security, Wi-Fi and the planned Spotsylvania County station and third track.

On the security front, the commuter rail system wants to have cameras set up at four more stations, including Fredericksburg's.

Several Northern Virginia VRE stations already have security cameras.

The Fredericksburg station on Lafayette Boulevard will eventually have cameras that "would be placed on and around train station platforms so that VRE can capture operational and customer activity from the headquarters office," according to the VRE report for this week's agenda.

The downtown station will get four cameras at a cost of $56,169. A Homeland Security grant covers most of the cost.

The VRE board will vote Friday on a vendor to do the work.

As for Wi-Fi, the VRE has considered installing high-speed wireless computer technology on trains and at stations for some time.

A report in this week's agenda mentions four possible technologies the VRE could use, with the preferred one being routers, computer devices that move data.

A cost estimate, based on 2011 figures, puts installation of a router-based Wi-Fi network at $1.4 million. It would cost an estimated $230,000 annually to operate the system.

A Wi-Fi network would do more than allow passengers to surf the Internet.

The wireless network could help VRE upgrade positive train control for locomotives, improve the messaging system for riders and switch fare collection from paper to electronic form.

That means there could be a day when riders could validate tickets with a smartphone.

This issue is not slated for a vote. It is only listed as a discussion item.

The board also will talk about the progress of the Spotsylvania station and third track project.

The project, which will add a station and 2.6-mile third track to connect to the main line, will be built in the Crossroads Industrial Park off the U.S. 17 bypass.

The VRE agenda document notes that everything appears to be going well with the third track, with the design expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Construction of the track could be finished by the end of 2013.

There is no mention of a completion date for the station, which would be Spotsylvania's first commuter rail station.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
Email: sshenk@freelancestar.com