VRE riders will see a 3 percent fare increase starting July 1.

TICKETS for Virginia Railway Express trains will cost more starting July 1, the beginning of the fiscal year.

That’s when the average 3 percent fare increase goes into effect, according to an update from the commuter rail provider.

After the fare change, a trip from the Spotsylvania County station to the L’Enfant Plaza station in Washington, D.C., will increase from $11.90 to $12.15, according to VRE’s charts. A monthly ticket for the same trip will increase from $327.60 to $336.80.

Current July monthly tickets can be bought at the current price through the end of the month.

The VRE update also includes a question that comes up often: Can VRE add weekend service?

The commuter rail provider is beholden to the rail owner, CSX. Agreements with the owner “prohibit weekend VRE operations given the large amount of freight traffic that is held out of the territory during the weekdays,” VRE says. Those agreements help VRE trains, as well as Amtrak, run with less rail congestion during the week.

Weekend service would be nice, but remember, VRE was created as a commuter service, not for weekend daytrippers.

Summertime on I– 95

Speaking of weekend trips, VRE probably would make a killing this summer if it could run on weekends.

If recent weekend trends portend the future on the Interstate 95, drivers better plan on slug-like traffic going north and back.

On a recent Saturday trip to Washington, D.C., traffic was so bad on the interstate—going both ways, basically the entire way—that this driver used U.S. 1 to get to the Capitol. It still took about two hours, but that had to be better than traffic that was crawling along the interstate.

On the return trip, Interstate 66 was the choice. That is a longer trip, indeed, but traffic was a breeze; the northbound side, though, was jammed a good bit of the way.

Because of construction, weekend trips on I–95 won’t improve anytime soon.

There are projects along the interstate from Fredericksburg (the Courthouse Road interchange and express lanes extension in Stafford and the Rappahannock River crossing in Stafford and Fredericksburg) to the D.C. area (Interstate 395 express lanes work).

Those looking for options can use U.S. 301.

Another option is to take U.S. 17 to Fauquier County, where you can then take State Route 28 or U.S. 29.

There’s a catch with U.S. 29, though. Just north of the town of Warrenton, the highway will be closed just about a month for a major safety project known as “Cut the Hills.”

According to the Virginia Department of Transportation, the section around the Vint Hill Road area will be completely closed from July 8 until Aug. 2 for work on the highway.

Detours during the closure likely make this option a no-go for Fredericksburg-area drivers.

There are other options, such as enjoying the local scenes on weekends.

Or, get started on your northbound I–95 trip before the crack of dawn and head back around midnight. You might have better luck.

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

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