NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia is currently served by 13 Amtrak regional and national trains that connect 21 rail stations.
The system in the Commonwealth is one of the best revenue generators of its size for Amtrak.
The problem is, it could be better. There’s a lack of east-to-west routes --Hampton Roads to Roanoke, Charlottesville, and Blacksburg, for example.
However, following a study in 2018, and some recent action from lawmakers, the groundwork is being laid to change that, and bring back a western route for the first time in decades.
As it stands now, if you wanted to ride the Amtrak to Roanoke from Norfolk or Newport News, you’d have to ride all the way up to Washington D.C., then come all the way back down to Roanoke. What is normally a 4.5-hour drive, would be a 16-hour train ride.
A new route under consideration would open western travel using a western connector to Charlottesville.
It’s called the Commonwealth Corridor, and it’s something we haven’t seen in more than 40 years.
Back in the 1970s when Amtrak was first offering passenger rail service, we had a line from Hampton Roads to Charlottesville. It just wasn’t a money-maker, so it only lasted around 10 years.
Fast forward to today. Financially, the Commonwealth Corridor makes more sense.
Ridership reached an all-time high in July of this year, with 40,000 people catching an Amtrak train that month out of Norfolk alone.
The route appears popular, and it has political backing - the only hurdle would be funding. With a $415 million price tag, it would be one of the biggest investments in rail in the last few decades.