UNTED States Class 1 CSX has closed the first phase of its $US 525m rail agreement with Virginia for the state’s $US 3.7bn initiative to improve passenger and freight rail capacity and relieve road traffic congestion.

The “Transforming Rail in Virginia” initiative, which Virginia governor, Mr Ralph Northam, unveiled in December 2019, will “expand Amtrak and VRE [Virginia Railway Express] rail services, create a pathway for the separation of freight and passenger rail in Virginia, and preserve future rail corridors.” The state, Amtrak, CSX and VRE finalised agreements last month.

CSX said it will sell certain interests in three CSX-owned line segments for a total of $US 525m. According to the initiative, Virginia will acquire 618km of CSX right-of-way and 358.8km of track in rail corridors paralleling the I-95, I-64 and I-85 highways.

“This first phase of the agreement is for the conveyance of a permanent land easement to enable the separation of passenger and freight rail operations in the Washington, DC, to Petersburg, Virginia, corridor,” CSX reported. “The remaining phases of the deal relate to line segments from Petersburg, Virginia, to Ridgeway, North Carolina, and from Doswell, Virginia, to Clifton Forge, Virginia. CSX anticipates closing on the remaining conveyances over the next two years.”

“This transaction highlights our ability to find creative ways to generate meaningful value from our assets while enhancing the safety and efficiency of passenger and freight rail service in a vital transportation corridor,” says CSX president and CEO, Mr James Foote. “CSX looks forward to our continued partnership with the [state], which will benefit commuters as well as our valued freight customers in the future.”

In 2020, Northam signed legislation creating the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) to manage and govern state-wide passenger and commuter rail service. VPRA will also administer all capital expansion projects, infrastructure and land acquisitions related to the “Transforming Rail in Virginia” initiative.