Long Bridge over the Potomac River

The Long Bridge rail crossing over the Potomac River. 

Gov. Ralph Northam today announced the commonwealth has reached agreements with Amtrak, CSX, and Virginia Railway Express to launch a $3.7 billion investment to expand passenger, commuter and freight rail in Virginia, including increasing VRE commuter service by 60% over the next 10 years. 

Northam joined U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in Alexandria on Tuesday, March 30, to make the announcement. 

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to build a 21st century rail system in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” Northam said. “This historic initiative will help get people and goods where they need to go more efficiently, reduce congestion and pollution, and create a more inclusive economy.”

The plan, known as the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, is intended to relieve traffic congestion in Virginia, where the population is expected to grow from 8.5 million to 10 million over the next 25 years, with 20% of that growth expected in Northern Virginia. 

The finalized agreements for the plan will support the construction of a $1.9 billion bridge over the Potomac River dedicated to passenger rail, the acquisition of 386 miles of railroad right-of-way and 223 miles of track from CSX, and an investment of more than $1 billion in additional infrastructure improvements by Virginia’s state government. 

VRE CEO Rich Dalton said Tuesday VRE anticipates providing $200 million toward major infrastructure projects through the agreements, including expanding service by up to 60%. 

“That, combined with more than $800 million in improvements spelled out in VRE’s six-year Capital Improvement Program, will bring our contribution to rail improvements in Virginia to over $1 billion,” Dalton said. “As these projects come online, VRE will be able to expand service by as much as 60% along the [Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac] corridor.” 

VRE Chair and Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker said the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative could also allow for the operation of weekend VRE trains.

The partnership between the Virginia and Amtrak, CSX and VRE is also expected to double Virginia-supported Amtrak trains providing nearly hourly service; lay the foundation for a Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor; preserve an existing freight corridor between Doswell and Clifton Forge for future east-west passenger service; and create the potential to expand rail to all parts of the commonwealth.

“As we see the light at the end of the tunnel with the COVID-19 crisis, we’ll soon see Virginians heading back to work,” said Sen. Mark Warner. “In order to reduce congestion and travel times for commuters, we need long-term investments in our rail system.”

Reach Daniel Berti at dbert@fauquier.com

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