Governor Northam announced Wednesday that Virginia has reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway to extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley for the first time since 1979.
The Western Rail Initiative will increase intercity passenger rail service from Roanoke to the Northeast Corridor and is an expansion of the Transforming Rail in Virginia program.
“Bringing passenger rail service back to the New River Valley will fuel tourism, drive economic growth, and create new opportunities for the region’s 180,000 residents and 40,000 college students,” said Governor Northam. “A key part of our Transforming Rail in Virginia program, the Western Rail Initiative will support critical infrastructure improvements necessary to modernize our transportation system and connect communities across the Commonwealth. This agreement is the result of collaboration among many partners, and we look forward to continuing this important work to enhance mobility in an equitable and environmentally sustainable way.”
According to a press release, the $257.2 million Western Rail Initiative includes:
- $38.2 million for acquisition of right-of-way and track for approximately 28.5 miles of the Virginian Line from the Salem Crossovers west of Roanoke to Merrimac (Christiansburg)
- $219 million in infrastructure investments along the corridor that includes:
- Roanoke Yard improvements,
- a 7-mile siding from Nokesville to Calverton, creating a continuous two-track corridor for 22 miles from Manassas to Remington,
- improvements from Salem to Christiansburg, including signaling and track upgrades, a maintenance facility, and passenger platform, and
- infrastructure improvements along the Route 29/Interstate 81 corridor
The agreement includes both an increase of existing service and expansion of service to the New River Valley.
Officials say in 2022, an additional round-trip train to Roanoke will depart D.C., in the morning and serve Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke.
The expansion will complement the existing Amtrak Northeast Corridor service. The two Northeast Corridor round trips will be extended from Roanoke to Christiansburg upon completion of the infrastructure improvements in 2025.
Virginia and Norfolk Southern will continue to work to finalize definitive legal agreements, with execution planned by the end of 2021.
The governor says Virginia plans to partner with the members of the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to fund the construction of a station building, parking, and roadway access for the station.