Northam announces $3.7B rail investment for Virginia

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Virginia has reached an agreement with Amtrak, CSX and Virginia Railway Express to launch a $3.7 billion rail investment, Gov. Ralph Northam’s office announced this week.

The plan is designed to expand and improve passenger, commuter and freight rail in the commonwealth and connect the rail network between the Northeast and Southeast corridors, the governor’s office said in a news release. The partnership will acquire 386 miles of railroad right-of-way and 223 miles.

About $1.9 billion will be used to construct a passenger-rail bridge over the Potomac River to establish separate lines for freight and passengers. The river flows through parts of northern Virginia and divides the commonwealth between parts of Maryland and Washington, D.C.

“Northern Virginia is at the crossroads of the Mid-Atlantic rail network, where the existing Long Bridge is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C., creating a choke point for rail traffic between the Southeast and Northeast,” Congressman Don Beyer, who represents parts of northern Virginia, said in a statement,

“I worked with a coalition of my colleagues in Congress to authorize and fund a new Long Bridge, an effort that also helped the Commonwealth secure access to the federal land needed for construction of the new Long Bridge,” Beyer said. “This project is estimated to bring nearly $6 billion annually in benefits to the region by 2040 and is a key component of Transforming Rail in Virginia. That is the kind of progress we need to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and create jobs, and I’m grateful for everyone who came together to make it a reality.”

Over the next decade, the partnership will double state-supported Amtrak trains to provide service nearly every hour. It will increase VRE commuter service by 60%, set the foundation for a southeast high speed rail corridor, preserve the corridor between Doswell and Clifton Forge and open the state up to future expansions in other parts of the state.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to build a 21st century rail system in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” Northam said in a statement. “This historic initiative will help get people and goods where they need to go more efficiently, reduce congestion and pollution, and create a more inclusive economy. Together with our partners at Amtrak, CSX, and VRE, we are making critical investments that will fundamentally transform our transportation infrastructure, delivering long-term economic benefits for our workers and communities as we rebound from the pandemic and into the future.”

According to a news release, the commonwealth is working with state, local and regional partners for funding. Amtrak committed more than $944 million.

The plan was launched in response to growing rail traffic congestion and the expected growth in state population, particularly in northern Virginia.

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