FRONT ROYAL – A regional agency plans to offer bus service to commuters when major construction begins on Interstate 66.
The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission announced this week that it intends to bring a commuter bus online by next summer that would take riders from Front Royal to Manassas. Senior Project and Operations Manager Karen Taylor provided details Friday about the service aimed at helping I-66 users avoid traffic jams when work begins on widening the interstate outside the Capital Beltway.
The regional commission expects to start the commuter bus in June but plans to market the service, Taylor said.
The service will consist of two trips during peak hours in the morning and evening with the bus picking up passengers at the park-and-ride lot on U.S. 340-522 north of Front Royal, then at the lot in Linden. The bus would pick up riders around 5 a.m. and at 7 a.m., Taylor said. The bus would take riders to the park-and-ride lots on Cushing Road and in Manassas. Riders then can connect to the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission bus routes that serve Washington, D.C., the Pentagon and Metrorail at Tysons Corner.
The 35-seat charter bus will feature Wi-Fi and a bathroom, Taylor said.
The Virginia Department of Transportation recently began work on a project that involves widening the interstate inside and outside the Interstate 495 Capital Beltway. VDOT anticipates construction to begin next year, according to information at http://transform66.org.
Transportation officials expect traffic to worsen during the construction period. Taylor said crews would need to reduce the highway to one traffic lane.
“It’ll wreak havoc,” Taylor said. “They were asking maybe what we could do out here, if we had any ideas ’cause we do have a lot of commuters … My idea would be to have a commuter bus.”
The regional commission will receive up to $250,000 from VDOT as a subsidy, Taylor explained.
A transportation management plan would subsidize the private bus service for up to six months or until the number of riders reaches 35 – the point of profitability for operators, according to information from the commission.
A local man ran a commuter bus in the area several years ago, Taylor recalled, noting that the operator didn’t have the same financial backing now available to the regional commission.
“It’s hard to keep a bus on the road when you’re not getting (a) subsidy from the state or anything,” Taylor said. “It’s not a business where you can make money at all.”
Each commuter bus route started under the program removes up to 55 cars per day per trip, 1,110 vehicles per month and 13,750 cars per year from the I-66 work zone. The empty seat subsidy would pay $15 per empty seat round trip up to 35 seats per month during a six-month period.
The number of riders will be submitted each month to determine the average number of empty seats that would qualify for the subsidy. The maximum subsidy under the transportation management program is $126,000 per bus. Unused funds would go back into the start-up subsidy pool. If the bus achieves the goal of 35 passengers before the end of the six-month period, the subsidy is complete. The regional commission then decides at the end of the period whether or not to continue the service.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com.