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New VRE station in Crystal City to get new source of funding

Northern Virginia Transportation Commission plans to use $8 million from different funding pot than expected

It won’t quite be equivalent to robbing Peter to pay Paul, but more like asking one to pick up some of the tab from the other.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is planning to use a different funding bucket than expected to provide $8 million to fund a portion of the costs for a new Crystal City station to serve Virginia Railway Express and, potentially, Amtrak.

The funding, which will support a portion of the overall cost, initially was slated to come from toll revenues collected on drivers using Express Lanes on Interstates 395 and 95. Under the new proposal, it instead would come from a similar program using toll revenues from drivers on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway.

Reason for the switcheroo? There usually is more than enough money in the I-66 funding pot to accommodate all requests from localities under the Commuter Choice initiative, while funding requests typically exceed available funds from the I-95/395 kitty.

Since enhanced commuter-rail service is likely to ease congestion on both I-95/395 and I-66, “no legal or practical concerns” related to the change were flagged by lawyers for the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission or Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

For the upcoming round of I-66 Commuter Choice funding, 11 projects valued at $13.5 million are being evaluated. Even if rising to $21.5 million with the $8 million for the Crystal City project, the total would be less than half the anticipated funds expected to be available for proposals.