Virginia announces agreement with CSX to transform rail service

Dec. 20, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Virginia) this week announced an agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and CSX to expand reliability and service on Virginia’s rail lines.

The goal of the partnership is to create a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond to Washington D.C. corridor. The parties will continue work to finalize definitive agreements so work can begin in the second half of 2020.

The agreement outlines a $3.7 billion investment that includes 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; and 37 miles of new track improvements, including a Franconia-Springfield bypass.

“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,” Gov. Northam said in a statement. “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.”

Currently Long Bridge, built in 1904 and owned by CSX, carries every passenger, commuter, and CSX freight train that crosses the Potomac River. But it has only two tracks, and is at 98% capacity in peak times. The new bridge will relieve this bottleneck, providing track for passenger and commuter trains while freight trains exclusively use the existing Long Bridge.

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 that would double the number of Virginia Amtrak trains; provide nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, D.C.; increase Virginia Railway Express (VRE) service by 75% along the I-95 corridor, with 15-minute intervals during peak periods and adding weekend service; increase Amtrak service to Newport News and allowing for improved schedule of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk; lay the foundation for Southeast High Speed Rail through the acquisition of the abandoned S-Line which runs from Petersburg into North Carolina; and preserve 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.


SOURCE: Office of Gov. Ralph Northam