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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Virginia governor calls for $50 million in general funds to expand Amtrak service


Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed $50 million in one-time general fund dollars in fiscal-year 2022 to help improve intercity passenger-rail service along the corridor of U.S. Route 29 and Interstate 81.

The proposal would include a second daily round trip of Amtrak service, with stops in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas, Burke and Alexandria; extension of the existing and new second trains to New River Valley; and improved freight- and passenger-rail reliability, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) reported in its winter 2021 newsletter.

Improved passenger-rail service along the corridor has been a priority for more than a decade. The first discussion of a second train started in 2014. Virginia officials are in negotiations with Norfolk Southern Railway to finalize an agreement, according to the newsletter.

DRPT officials noted the following key points about the proposal:

• Amtrak service along the corridor has been "very successful," with ridership increasing from its inception in 2009 to more than 220,000 riders in 2019;
• The New River Valley has strong demographics for successful rail service, the New River Valley has strong demographics for successful rail service with a population of more than 180,000, including more than 40,000 university students;
• Studies indicate an additional 80,000 riders are expected to use the new service; and
• The existing Roanoke train is the only Amtrak service in Virginia that covers 100% of its operating costs through ticket revenue.