Gov. Northam announces passenger rail expansion in the NRV


CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR) – On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway and the Commonwealth to extend passenger rail service into the New River Valley for the first time since 1979.

Known as the Western Rail Initiative, the agreement will increase intercity passenger rail service from Roanoke to the Northeast Corridor and is an expansion of the Transforming Rail in Virginia program to build a 21st-century rail network.

“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. 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.”

Gov. Ralph Northam

The $257 million Western Rail Initiative includes:

  • $38.2 million for the 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 including:
    • Roanoke Yard improvements;
    • A seven-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 improves both an increase of existing services and expansion of service to the New River Valley.

In 2022, an additional round-trip train to Roanoke will depart Washington, D.C., in the morning and serve Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke.

The expansion complements the existing Amtrak Northeast Corridor service that travels north from Roanoke in the morning and returns in the afternoon.

The two Northeast Corridor round trips will be extended from Roanoke to Christiansburg upon completion of the infrastructure improvements in 2025.

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