Virginia plans to de-rail Development in Union Market & Ivy City



The Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a commuter rail service linking the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia and has plans to expand/relocate it’s rail-car storage capacity as an apparent result of the Union Station Expansion. VRE plans to do this by  reactivating abandoned railroad through Union Market and creating a new storage yard on New York Ave. from 4th street to  16th street.  See pictures below:

yard extent

VRE 1 Summary

VRE’s plan would expand into a developing community absent of considering the obvious impact not only to the residents of this community but to the community development efforts and livability factor of such a facility.  These rails have been abandoned for decades and New York Ave. is becoming a residential and retail destination which will connect many of the communities from NOMA to Fort Lincoln. Today, there is an  existing 70 foot buffer between Amtrak Trains & New York Ave, which is used in part by Douglas Development as well as the planned trail connection along New York Ave. which will bring safe multimodal infrastructure to the community. Removing that buffer and storing idling diesel powered trains up to the curb is infuriating and is clearly a lack of engagement and care for the lives of people who live in this community.  Moreover, Virginia has much more space to store trains within its own state lines and close Proximity of D.C. but of coarse they wouldn’t dare dump on their own development projects.  VRE could easily store their  trains at the proposed Long Bridge Park Pool Site which still hasn’t broken ground or in Potomac Yards where they have decommissioned that entire rail yard and is redeveloping.

va options

In addition to the numerous and obvious environmental & health issues that stem from  idling trains within close proximity to District residents, this plan would significantly alter, or even in some cases halt or eliminate projects that are driving economic development for the overall community and addressing livability concerns along New York Ave which includes:

Market Terminal in Union Market

Ivy City

The planned N.Y. Ave. Trail Project

Hecht’s Warehouse District Development

The planned New City DC Development

Future Transportation Plans Along NY Ave.



As you can see in the picture below, the The proposed train storage yard extends beyond Montana Avenue.

storage extents 2

Where is VRE in the Process?

In May of this year, VRE released it’s solicitation to establish a Contract with one (1) qualified and experienced firm to provide environmental documentation, public outreach and participation, real estate acquisition, urban design, survey, geotechnical investigation and engineering design services for a midday storage facility for rolling stock operated by Virginia Railway Express (VRE).  Proposals were due on the 13th of June.  It is important that as more information about this project becomes available that we align ourselves with the residents and leadership of the  impacted areas and do our part to make light of this potential travesty.   The link to the Conceptual Engineering Documents by VRE is below.



20 thoughts on “Virginia plans to de-rail Development in Union Market & Ivy City”

  1. Would love to see VRE and MARC begin run-through service. There could be storage yards farther out in both Maryland and Virginia rather than near Union Station.

  2. VRE is building a siding at L’Enfant Plaza for mid-day train storage, and it has an electrical supply that allows the trains to be cooled/heated when not in use without running the diesel engine. Perhaps idling diesel engines is not an issue.

      1. It’s 100 feet between existing tracks and a street. What’s going to go there? And the two blocks south of NY Ave are commercial.

      2. The proposals over the past few years were to have a portion of this long abandoned right-of-way as a park which included a trail the other half as a space for start-ups and other small businesses that would operate out of office containers, as well as a community fairgrounds/market.

  3. Rebuilding the old Potomac yard rail sidings at Potomac Yard will never fly and they will never allow the pool site to go to rail infrstructure. Encroaching on GW Parkway between Crystal City and National seems like a better idea.

    1. That and there isn’t any room in Potomac yard anymore, Its been built up for quite some time. I don’t know what OP is smoking, but there isn’t a huge amount of places to park trains in Northern Virginia.

  4. The proposed tracks are alongside Amtrak’s massive Ivy City yard which maintains the Acelas, a Metro yard, and also storage tracks forMARC trains. It’s hard to see how adding an additional two tracks to an area that in places has 20 plus tracks in parallel could stop development that neighbors it. (Admittedly, it might make that trail a lot harder to do.)

    1. There is close to a 100 foot buffer between NY Ave and the “massive” Amtrak Yard. There are also other proposed uses for that 100 foot buffer in addition to the trail that would provide greater opportunities for small and local businesses and will be a place that will foster a healthy evolving community. Those two tracks you note, will store 86 train cars including locomotives which will impact development in addition to an “already massive”Amtrak yard. Would you be willing to move your family across the street from such a facility and support the storage yard over community development?

      1. In an urban environment, it’s not unusual to have transportation infrastructure immediately adjacent to thriving communities. Just look at SW DC. We have a major rail line (Amtrak, VRE & freight), a VRE station, and a major interstate highway spur. We’re a bustling, busy part of the city down here, with massive growth underway due in part to the convenient transportation infrastructure. Instead of arguing against this, why not look for potential advantages. For example, would an Ivy City VRE station be a possibility?

      2. I’ve lived in both the S.W. Waterfront and near the Nationals Stadium prior to moving to Ward 5 and the two former are incomparable to what we have here in Ward 5. The proposed Ward 5 rail plan activates abandoned lines, on the street level, displaces planned community development efforts, on the city’s busiest arterial road in an undeserved community with the hopes of a station that takes us to where, Woodbridge? The situation in SW has rail that is above the street level atop historic stone walls and is mostly covered or underground, the freight tunnel in Far S.E. which is being widened is completely underground near residential communities, both S.W. and far Southeast has the added benefit of being located near the National Mall near Museums, Metrobus, Metrorail, A baseball Stadium in addition to a massive land transfer of the Navy Yard under the Clinton Administration that led to the massive redevelopment happening in that area today. The conditions are not the same, the existing incomes are not the same, the development interests is not the same & the implementation is not the same. Activating those lines will set our community back.

  5. Is there an avenue by which this development can help integrate a trail and other transportation-related amenities rather than hurt? I am skeptical about the complaints being levied here. Nothing could be more unsafe, disgusting, and deleterious to a family’s health and the livability of a home than New York Avenue and all of its cars. More train infrastructure is great. Activating a sliver of space between a railyard and an auto sewer (NY Ave), and maybe improving the mess of an intersection at Montana and NY Aves, all seem like good things.

    As long as the bike trail can still be built (and I’m not really seeing a reason why it couldn’t; it doesn’t appear that they occupy the same space and the trail is meant to exist adjacent to rail infrastructure anyway), I see no issues with this. I care a lot about the trail being there; I see no issues with trains parks nearby.

  6. Actually, I’d have no problem living there. I used to live next to Union Station and walk the Metropolitan Branch Trail daily (once they put it in) so there’s certainly a way all these uses can coexist next to very dense development.

    For that matter, the VRE trains are already parked for most of the day just up from Union Station; this proposal would simply be moving them slightly up the tracks, so that instead of staying next to the Uline Arena/Senate Square/Central Armature area, they’d be up by Union Market/Hecht Warehouse. I don’t think the day-parking of trains from MARC and VRE slowed down any of the NoMa development — so why would it further up the same tracks.

    I agree with NK; it would be best if the trail could continue — but if the city doesn’t have the ROW or own the land it was proposed to go on, it’s not going to happen without the significant cost needed of paying private landowners.

    1. Right. Exactly who owns what there anyway? My understanding was that Douglas Development owns at least some of that land and was constructing at least some of the bike trail as a service to the community. It seems unlikely that the trail (which takes up relatively little space) couldn’t be built anyway, unless wanton community obstructionism closes the door to negotiation with VRE if it (or some entity sympathetic to it) owns some of the land the trail is meant to go on.

      As long as there’s a fence, I will bike/run/walk next to parked trains. Anytime. I can’t imagine why this would be a problem.

  7. Really need improvements to Union Station to allow MARC and VRE to run through the station. It would greatly increase capacity, speeds, and remove most of the idling trains from around Union Station.

    Not sure if anyone wants a 1 seat ride from Alexandria/Fredericksburg to Baltimore, but you would get that too.

    1. I believe there is value in having a commuter infill station that would provide connections. The issue I have is with the storage of the rail cars on the abandoned railed right-of way which has been abandoned for decades. Storing cars along a section of land that was proposed to be used as a community benefit now slated to store trains was my issue.

      1. Ok, but your alternatives aren’t valid either. Potomac Yard has been decomissioned for 26 years, and has now been filled in with housing, strip malls, etc.

  8. Mr. Looper. You seem to have a bad case of NIMBY. Perhaps you’d rather see extra drivers on surface roads and parking decks.

    1. People who know my work in the community are well aware that NIMBYism isn’t what I stand on. However, what I will stand against are projects that I feel will be a detriment to the progress and vision of the people who live there and to make them aware of the impacts to the community. The leadership of the directly affected location can negotiate with VRE if they so choose and work to come to an agreement. The thousands of residents who live within 2-5 minutes away also have a vested interests in stopping what often appears to an ongoing saga of relocating similar facilities in the community. What many of the uninformed tend to not understand is that this part of the city has been inundated with facilitates such as trash transfer stations, bus storage lots, displaced distribution vendors, which have made it increasingly unsafe to walk, bike, and even drive in the community. In addition to the number of hotels which now serve as homeless shelters on this same street. The ability for the community to rebound through ongoing development and coexist with similar existing sites deters the ability to create the level of employment opportunities and sense of livability for residents to call this their home.

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