For more on the monumental $3.7B rail agreement, we’ve asked the President of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, Jason Stanford, to give us an update on its impact and what it will mean for our region.
Yesterday Virginia, CSX, Amtrak and VRE signed a historic agreement that will make Virginia’s Transforming Rail in Virginia project – including a new rail bridge between Virginia and DC – a reality. Expanding and connecting our region’s commuter rail systems including Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) is a key part of the DC area’s long-range transportation plans.
In 2019, Virginia announced an agreement on the framework for this deal with CSX and Amtrak, which included a $1 billion commitment from Amtrak and plans to purchase significant rail right-of-way from CSX. As a part of Virginia’s 2020 transportation omnibus legislation, the General Assembly created the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, which will oversee management of the new track. The bill also included authorization for up to $1 billion in bonds backed by I-66 Inside the Beltway toll revenue as well as using I-66 Inside the Beltway toll revenue to pay directly for the project.
Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation as well as VRE also include significant capital investments in this corridor in their respective six-year improvement plans. In addition, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority authorized $25 million to help build a rail-bypass in Springfield that is a key part of the project. The total cost of Transforming Rail in Virginia including the bridge, a new 4th track to Franconia, and the rail-bypass is estimated to be about $3.7 billion.
The new bridge will be dedicated to commuter rail and will allow VRE to run more frequent train service between Fredericksburg and DC. In addition, thanks to plans to renovate Union Station in DC, Virginia is also in discussions with Maryland to allow for run through service for Maryland and Virginia trains. This means that rather than transferring union station, Maryland residents could take a train directly to Crystal City.
The project will ultimately result in a more commuter rail options and better service for the entire DC region, while freeing up the current long-bridge and CSX tracks for more freight service to the port of Virginia. Furthermore, it will support thousands of new construction jobs and billions of dollars in new economic activity in Norther Virginia and the entire DC region.