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Virginia made landmark train rail agreement

The agreement would increase Amtrak's service to Newport News and allow for an improved schedule of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk.

Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday announced an agreement to expand reliability and service on Virginia’s rail lines. The agreement is estimated to be a $3.7 billion investment.

The agreement would increase Amtrak's service to Newport News and allow for improved schedule of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk, and create a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond to Washington, D.C. corridor. 

  • Building a new Virginia-owned Long Bridge across the Potomac River, with tracks dedicated exclusively to passenger and commuter rail
  • Acquisition of more than 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 miles of track
  • 37 miles of new track improvements, including a Franconia-Springfield bypass

Virginia and CSX will continue to work to finalize definitive agreements with execution planned in the second half of 2020.

“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,” said Governor 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.”

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The Commonwealth has negotiated improvements with CSX to increase service levels. These improvements will be phased in over 10 years, resulting in the additional service:

  • Doubling the number of Virginia Amtrak trains 
  • Providing nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, D.C.
  • Increasing Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service by 75 percent along the I-95 corridor, with 15-minute intervals during peak periods and adding weekend service
  • Increasing Amtrak service to Newport News and allowing for improved schedule of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk
  • Laying the foundation for Southeast High-Speed Rail through the acquisition of the abandoned S-Line which runs from Petersburg into North Carolina
  • Preserving an existing freight corridor between Doswell and Clifton Forge for future east-west passenger service

The Commonwealth is bringing together federal, state, and regional partners to fund the proposal, with Amtrak playing a critical role. The Amtrak Board of Directors has approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth that outlines their commitment to this program.

This rail expansion is expected to remove five million cars and one million trucks off Virginia highways each year, and propel the Port of Virginia toward its goal of moving 40 percent of containers by rail.

In addition, the acquisition of portions of the Buckingham Branch will preserve a future opportunity to create an east-west “college” corridor.