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Virginia officials have finalized agreements with Amtrak, CSX and the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) to launch a $3.7 billion rail-expansion program aimed at improving passenger-, commuter- and freight-rail service.
The plan is designed to create a "vital connection" in the U.S. national rail network between the Northeast and Southeast corridors, according to a press release issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
The finalized agreements announced yesterday advance a plan that Northam unveiled in December 2019 to increase and improve passenger-rail service in the region. The plan includes construction of a $1.9 billion bridge over the Potomac River dedicated to passenger rail; acquisition of 386 miles of railroad right of way and 223 miles of track from CSX; and an investment of more than $1 billion in additional infrastructure improvements by Virginia.
The investments will allow Virginia to expand Amtrak and VRE services, create a pathway for the separation of freight and passenger rail in Virginia and preserve future rail corridors.
Amtrak, state and regional partners are funding the initiative. The $944 million that Amtrak is committing over the next decade is nearly 30% of the cost of improvements under the Transforming Rail in Virginia program. In addition, Virginia and Amtrak are entering into a long-term partnership for six new state-supported daily roundtrips. Amtrak will be Virginia's exclusive provider of intercity passenger-rail service along the Interstate 95 corridor for at least 30 years.
Passenger-rail service cannot increase without expanding existing infrastructure, which is why the agreement with CSX is key. Owned and operated by CSX, the existing Long Bridge over the Potomac River is the only rail bridge connecting Virginia to the District of Columbia. It is one of the most significant passenger- and freight-rail bottlenecks along the U.S. East Coast. The rail infrastructure improvements will address those bottlenecks, Virginia and CSX officials said.
A new, Virginia-owned two-track bridge will be built across the Potomac adjacent to the CSX freight bridge and will be exclusively used for passenger and commuter rail. The project will expand and improve service on Virginia's rail lines and create a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond, Virginia -Washington, D.C., corridor.
"CSX appreciates the collaboration with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the support of our federal partners, and we look forward to implementing the agreement that addresses commuter traffic challenges in the I-95 corridor while preserving and enhancing our ability to grow freight volumes safely and efficiently," said CSX President and Chief Executive Officer James Foote, who attended a ceremony to honor the final agreements.