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The state of Virginia realizes that if it wants to expand passenger rail service in the region it needs to take ownership of the situation. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced an agreement between the state and Class 1 railroad company CSX.
Virginia is going to purchase 225 miles of track and 350 miles of railroad right-of-way from CSX for $525 million. The deal includes half of the right-of-way between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Va., and also will allow for the construction of a new rail bridge across the Potomac River. The new span will be built alongside the Long Bridge, which will still be owned by CSX. When the double-track bridge is complete in 2027 Virginia Rail Express service will be expanded and Amtrak will be able to double its service. In total, Virginia will spend up to $3.7 billion. New track will be placed in the Washington-to-Richmond corridor. The effort will allow for the separation of passenger and freight rail, which will help increase reliability.
Virginia also will engage in a $185 million project that will add a fourth track approaching the new bridge from Alexandria, as well as a third-track project from Franconia to Occoquan ($220 million) and a rail bypass project at Franconia-Springfield ($330 million).
The CSX deal also includes 186 miles of track that will allow for the creation of an east-west line from Norfolk to Roanoke. Virginia also gets the abandoned S-Line from Petersburg, Va., to Ridgeway, N.C., which will help launch a high-speed train system in the Southeast.
Local, state and federal money will be used to help pay for the 10-year endeavor, with more funds expected to come from the District of Columbia, Maryland and northern Virginia.
Rail expansion has been a hot item in the region recently. In November, Virginia and Maryland announced they would be joining forces to expand the American Legion Bridge.
Northam believes the move is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” and will change the future of transportation in Virginia.
Virginia’s booming economy is creating the need for expansion. Amazon will be building a second headquarters in Crystal City, Va., which will bring another 25,000 jobs.
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