The investment follows recent studies which show that highway investment cannot alleviate gridlock and congestion in northern Virginia and will include:
- constructing a new Virginia-owned Long Bridge over the Potomac River which will be used entirely by passenger trains with the current structure, which dates from 1904 and is at 98% capacity during peak times, used for freight
- acquisition of more than 560km of railway right of way and 362km of track, and
- 60km of new line, including a Franconia - Springfield bypass.
Virginia has also negotiated improvements with CSX that will increase service levels gradually over the next 10 years. As well as the overall improvements to Amtrak services and VRE, which will benefit from 15-minute interval trains and a new weekend service, a new Amtrak service will be added to Newport News, improving the schedule for a third Amtrak train to Norfolk.
In addition, acquisition of the abandoned S-Line from Petersburg into North Carolina will lay the foundation for the proposed Southeast High Speed Rail. Preserving the existing freight line between Doswell and Clifton Forge will support the future east-west passenger service.
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make our rail system work better for everyone, both in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” says Virginia governor Mr Ralph Northam. “This agreement will change the future of transportation in Virginia, improving our ability to move people and goods across the state, and opening up potential rail service in underserved parts of the Commonwealth.”
The expansion of rail services is expected to remove five million cars and one million trucks off Virginia’s roads each year and support the Port of Virginia’s objective to move 40% of containers by rail. Acquisition of parts of the Buckingham branch will create a future opportunity to deliver a east-west ‘college corridor.’
“Expansion of the Long Bridge will enable us to grow VRE service to include new riders, new hours, and new weekend service - in short, to improve the quality of life and economic opportunities for tens of thousands more Northern Virginians,” says Ms Katie Cristol, chair of VRE’s Operations Board. “That vision is truly within reach, with the Commonwealth now in a position to own and manage this major passenger rail asset.”
“This programme is a model for the nation of how to grow passenger and freight service together in order to relieve congestion, protect our environment, and enhance mobility,” says Mr Stephen Gardner, Amtrak senior executive vice-president and chief operating and commercial officer.