$3.7B transportation deal to boost rail service across VA

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and CSX announced a $3.7 billion agreement on Dec 19, ,2019 for the state to buy 225 miles of track and build new passenger rail improvements. Virginia will buy half of the CSX rail line from L’Enfant Plaza in D.C. to downtown Richmond, which will allow for many more daily Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains, and, for the first time, provide weekend service on VRE’s Fredericksburg Line. The proposed agreement also includes doubling the number of Amtrak trains in Virginia over the next 10 years to improve service and relieve traffic congestion in the I-95 corridor between Richmond and northern Virginia.

Virginia will also get permanent passenger train rights on CSX tracks between Richmond and Petersburg, and take ownership of a 75-mile abandoned CSX rail line between Petersburg and Ridgeway, North Carolina. North Carolina would need a similar rail plan to connect that line to Raleigh.

Between Doswell, Charlottesville, Staunton and Clifton Forge, Virginia will also purchase the 173-mile Buckingham Branch Line, which could be used for future east-west passenger rail service. For now, the tracks will remain in use for freight services. Passenger rail advocates and other groups want to resurrect a long-defunct east-west rail line that would run from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Virginia Beach. In its recent reportVirginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR) envisions a “Commonwealth Corridor” to connect Christiansburg and the New River Valley with Hampton Roads, and would include stops at Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, and Richmond.