Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

Transforming Rail in Virginia

On December 19, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam announced a landmark agreement launching a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity transforming rail in the Commonwealth.

Virginia and CSX Announce Landmark Rail Agreement 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1) What is the purpose of the new rail program announced by Virginia and CSXT?

The purpose is to grow Virginia’s economy by $2 billion annually and improve mobility by expanding and improving Amtrak, VRE and freight rail services. Improvements to freight rail services will increase rail capacity to support the Port of Virginia, which is becoming increasingly dependent upon freight rail to move goods to and from the Port.

2) Why does Virginia need more rail transportation now?

Virginia’s interstate capacity is continuing to decline.  Across Virginia, travelers currently experience 230 million hours of delay resulting in $6.5 billion in annual congestion costs.  Current conditions and increasing demand means more throughput capacity is needed in Virginia’s interstate corridors and passenger rail provides the most cost-effective solution in the short and long term. 

At the same time, passenger rail performance cannot improve, and services cannot grow, without expanding the existing infrastructure.  Amtrak and VRE trains suffer delays repeatedly from train interference due to congestion on the railroad.  The current Long Bridge over the Potomac River is one of the most significant rail bottlenecks along the entire East Coast of the United States.  Long Bridge is currently at 98% capacity during the peak period.  The agreement with CSXT will directly address these constraints and improve mobility for Virginians.    

3) Who is involved in this new rail program?

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and CSXT, one of the largest private railroads in North America, have established the program to significantly improve the reliability and frequency of Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and CSXT freight rail services.

4) What does this new rail program involve?

Through an agreement with CSXT, the program allows Virginia to double Amtrak state-supported service and VRE Fredericksburg Line service (including first time ever weekend service) over the next decade in exchange for Virginia acquiring approximately 350 miles of CSXT right-of-way and 225 miles of track in the I-95, I-64 and I-85 corridors, and building incrementally over the next 10 years 37 miles of track in the I-95 corridor (including a new two track Long Bridge).

More specifically, Virginia is acquiring approximately ½ of the CSXT-owned railroad right-of-way between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA (RF&P), rights to use the tracks between Richmond, VA and Petersburg, VA, all of the CSXT-owned (but out of service) right-of-way between Petersburg, VA and Ridgeway, NC (S-Line), and all of the CSXT-owned right-of-way between Doswell, VA and Clifton, Forge, VA (Buckingham Branch Railroad).  Track within the right-of-way purchased by Virginia also becomes Virginia property.  With the acquisition, Virginia has committed to a series of infrastructure improvements to the RF&P right-of-way that will allow for doubling Amtrak state-supported and VRE Fredericksburg Line service, including the addition of VRE weekend service.  

5) When will the program begin? What are the next steps?

Virginia has announced agreement on a binding term sheet with CSXT.  The transaction will be complete towards the end of next year.  The next steps involve executing a purchase and sale agreement, transition agreement, operating agreement, and maintenance agreement with CSXT; as well as obtaining approvals from the Virginia General Assembly to allow debt financing that will not count against the State’s debt ceiling. 

6) Where will new Amtrak and VRE service be provided in Virginia?  When will it start? 

Following the close of the transaction, Virginia will be able to provide one new roundtrip between Washington, DC and Norfolk, VA and one new roundtrip on VRE’s Fredericksburg line.  Service will be coordinated through Amtrak and VRE with start dates to be announced next year.  Additional service will come on line over the next decade incrementally as capacity improvements are completed to the right-of-way acquired by Virginia from CSXT. By 2030, Amtrak state-supported service and VRE Fredericksburg Line service will double (including new weekend service), with opportunities to expand even further beyond 2030.

7) How will the program be implemented?

The program will be implemented through a series of capital improvements, including a new passenger dedicated two-track Long Bridge in Washington, DC.  As improvements are completed, the additional capacity will allow more passenger rail service to come on-line.  A map showing the phased improvements is available below.

8) How much does the program cost and who will pay for it?

The program is estimated to cost approximately $3.7 billion.  $525 million of the $3.7 billion will be paid to CSXT over the next three years for the acquisition of property and track and the remainder of the cost will go towards committed capital improvements Virginia will make to the acquired right-of-way in the I-95 corridor between Washington, DC and Richmond, VA.

Funding for the program has been identified and is in the process of being secured through agreements with funding partners.  The allocation of costs is expected to be approximately 1/3 Federal, 1/3 State and 1/3 Local and other Regional Sources.

Virginia is advancing improvements and increased Amtrak service levels that are consistent with DC2RVA.  The DC2RVA Record of Decision provides the environmental clearance for many of the planned improvements in the I-95 corridor.

Virginia is a cooperating agency for the Long Bridge EIS and is working closely with DDOT as project sponsorship transfers over to Virginia following completion of the EIS.  The EIS will provide the environmental clearance necessary for this critical component of the program.

9) How does this announcement relate to the DC2RVA Project and the Long Bridge Project (led by the District of Columbia's Department of Transportation?

Virginia is advancing improvements and increased Amtrak service levels that are consistent with DC2RVA.  The DC2RVA Record of Decision provides the environmental clearance for many of the planned improvements in the I-95 corridor.

Virginia is a cooperating agency for the Long Bridge EIS and is working closely with DDOT as project sponsorship transfers over to Virginia following completion of the EIS.  The EIS will provide the environmental clearance necessary for this critical component of the program. 

10)  What does the program mean for the future of the Buckingham Branch Railroad?

Ownership of the Clifton Forge, Virginia to Doswell, Virginia section of the Buckingham Branch Railroad will transfer from CSXT to Virginia.  CSXT will retain ownership of the line from Doswell, Virginia to Richmond, Virginia.  Operation of the Buckingham Branch Railroad will continue under leasing arrangements Virginia and CSXT will have with the line’s short line operator – the Buckingham Branch Railroad Company.

ADDITIONAL MATERIALS

Amtrak Future Service Plan

Virginia Railway Express Future Service Plan

Map of Future Program Highlights

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