RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced the expansion of rail service through the Commonwealth with help through funding from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan to improve transportation across the U.S.
The collaborative effort will move $3.5 billion to transform the rail system in Virginia and along the entire East Coast to separate passenger and freight operations to make travel faster up and down the east coast and connect rural areas.
The transformation plan will also construct a new bridge over the Potomac River, Northam said.
Northam said the construction of the new rail system will solve the congestion issues on Interstate 95 and across the DMV. He said research shows that drivers spend almost 230 million hours in delays and the state spends about $6.5 billion of congestion cost.
“In order to reduce congestion and travel times for commuters, we need long-term investments in our rail system. That’s why I was proud to have successfully pushed for the December COVID-19 relief package to allow for the construction of a new Long Bridge on the Potomac River, which will double the capacity of the rail crossing right here in the Commonwealth and with our neighbors in Washington, D.C," Senator Mark R. Warner said.
Building more lanes won't solve the issue and will take 10 years, Northam said. He added that the state looked at different solutions and realized it will cost less and take less time to add a rail system than lanes on the interstates.
"Thinking big on our rail projects will not only propel us into the 21st century, but it would help ensure that the Commonwealth remains one of the best places to live and work in the country," Warner said.
The population of Virginia is expected to grow from 8.5 million to 10 million over the next 25 years, with 20 percent of that growth expected in Northern Virginia, only compounding congestion problems and putting more pressure on the transportation network.
In the next 10 years, the state is looking to double the number of Amtrak trains, increase VRE service for commuters by 60%, lay a foundation to Petersburg, Va. to North Carolina, and create the potential to expand rail services in rural areas in the commonwealth.
"It will be easier to take a train to New York from Virginia," Northam said.
Under President Biden's American Rescue Plan $43 billion will be allocated to fund the nation's transportation system, passengers, and workers, according to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
"$1.4 billion will help fund the D.C. area, the Maryland suburbs and Northern Virginia to get essential workers to get to where they need," Buttigieg said.