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Whoa! Virginia Steps Up To The Plate

December 19, 2019

Whoa! Virginia Steps Up To The Plate

by Jim Mathews / President and CEO

Hooray for the Commonwealth of Virginia!

After years of hand-wringing, one of the key actors for passenger-rail expansion in the Mid-Atlantic is breaking the logjam. The Commonwealth of Virginia is going to take on the project of building the Long Bridge, and is acquiring some CSX right-of-way and the Buckingham Branch railroad in a $3.7 billion commitment that will add frequencies and enable new weekend commuter service.

A looming choke point and obstacle to better service for years, building a new Long Bridge between Virginia's Arlington County and Washington, DC, will mean lots of new capacity for a system that's groaning for it.

The move effectively means extending Amtrak's Northeast Corridor south.

The funding will come from a mix of sources, including Virginia, some federal money, $944 million from Amtrak and others. The deal includes picking up 225 miles of track and 350 miles of CSX right-of-way, as well as aquiring the 173-miles Buckingham Branch between Doswell and Clifton Forge.

Expect more analysis from us at Rail Passengers tomorrow, but think about what all of this makes possible: East-West passenger rail service across Virginia between Norfolk and Roanoke, connecting potentially to other services. Weekend service on the Virginia Railway Express' Fredricksburg commuter line. Doubling frequencies between the District and Richmond.

It's a great example of what can be done when states, local governments and industry come together to work out a win-win for everyone. This country is dotted with unused or lightly used rights-of-way that could form the basis of a new generation of passenger service. Selective investments in projects like this one could transform passenger rail in the U.S.

Congratulations to Virginia for stepping up to the plate! Now, who's next...?