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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Virginia receives federal funding for two passenger-rail projects

"With ridership continuing to grow, there is a definite need for more rail options," said DJ Stadtler, Virginia Passenger Rail Authority executive director.
Photo – Virginia Passenger Rail Authority


Two Virginia passenger-rail projects received a combined $3.2 million in dedicated federal funding in the fiscal-year 2023 legislation that Congress passed last month, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) announced yesterday.

The funding will be used for the New River Valley Passenger Service Extension and the Newport News Transportation Center, authority officials said in a press release.

Both state-supported projects will affect Amtrak Virginia rail service, which has been setting ridership records. Ridership in November 2022 topped 112,800 passengers, a 37.7% increase over pre-pandemic 2019, and the highest November ridership since Virginia launched its state-supported service in 2009, authority officials said.

The New River Valley Passenger Extension project received $2 million to help fund the expansion of passenger-rail service from Roanoke through the New River Valley to Christiansburg for the first time since 1979.

The project began with the Western Rail Initiative Agreement between VPRA and Norfolk Southern Railway through which Virginia purchased 28 miles of right-of-way and tracks along the V Line from Salem Crossovers, west of Roanoke, to Merrimac (Christiansburg).

VPRA plans to improve the existing rail infrastructure, including track and signal upgrades, which will allow for passenger-rail service to the New River Valley to begin as soon as 2026. It's estimated the new service will attract 77,300 to 87,100 passengers per year to the future New River Valley stop.

Meanwhile, the Newport News Transportation Center project received $1.2 million in federal funding. The project calls for a $47 million multimodal facility that will serve Amtrak — including two state-supported roundtrips daily, with a third roundtrip coming in 2026 per agreements between VPRA, CSX and Amtrak — as well as taxis, expanded bus service and shuttles to and from the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. Construction began in July 2020 and the center is slated to open in late 2023.

"We are working to not only provide high-quality passenger rail service and facilities to communities we currently serve, such as Newport News, but to expand service to communities that currently do not have rail service, like the New River Valley. With ridership continuing to grow, there is a definite need for more rail options," said DJ Stadtler, VPRA executive director.