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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Virginia rail agency, NS pony up $57 million to spruce up key rail corridor


The "i's" are dotted and "t's" crossed, and the state of Virginia soon will have fewer trucks traversing Interstate 81. Earlier this month, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) signed an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway under which the state will provide $40 million and NS, $17 million, to improve the I-81 rail corridor and reduce truck traffic along the busy interstate.

The deal — which also could help boost passenger-rail capacity, DRPT said — calls for NS to "deliver specific public benefits," such as increasing freight-rail traffic on the corridor during the next 15 years and removing 597,000 truck trips from Virginia highways.

NS will improve the most congested portion of the I-81 rail corridor, a 50-mile stretch between Manassas and Front Royal along Interstate 66, to eliminate a rail traffic bottleneck. The railroad will build and extend sidings, construct double track, and install a new signaling system.

"Increasing the capacity and reliability of rail service will provide congestion relief for highways and more transportation choices, with the potential for expansion of VRE rail passenger service in the Gainesville/Haymarket area," said DRPT Director Matthew Tucker in a prepared statement.

NS has completed preliminary engineering and is seeking environmental approvals. The Class I plans to begin construction next month and complete the project in late 2008.

Additional I-81 rail corridor improvements likely will be identified in a statewide rail plan that's currently under development, DRPT said. The corridor generally parallels I-81 along two rail routes, the Shenandoah and Piedmont lines. The Piedmont line runs between Danville, Va., and points in Maryland and the northeast; the Shenandoah line begins in Bristol, Va.

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More News from 1/23/2008