RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam announced the expansion of rail service from Richmond to the Northeast Corridor early Monday morning.

Alongside Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine, Gov. Northam boarded an inaugural train to Washington D.C., which departed from Main Street Station located in Richmond’s Shockoe Bottom district at 5:35 a.m.

This marks the first milestone in a $3.7 billion expansion of service under Northam’s “Transforming Rail in Virginia Program.” The project will connect the Northeast and Southeast corridors in America’s national rail network.

“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” Northam said.

“So many other parts of our economy, such as the movement of goods and of people, depend on our strong transportation system. This transformative plan will make travel faster and safer. It will make it easier to move up and down the east coast and it will connect urban and rural Virginia,” Northam furthered.

The Amtrak train offers early morning service from Main Street Station, allowing travelers to get to Washington D.C. before the workday begins or to New York for a lunchtime meeting.

At first, there will be three daily departure times to choose from, two in the morning and one in the evening.

Over the next ten years, nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington will be available. Amtrak service will also be enhanced for Newport News and Norfolk. Additionally, VRE services will increase by 75 percent along the I-95 Corridor and weekend service will be added.

“Part of this plan is to bring passenger rail out to the southwest to open up to Christiansburg, Blacksburg and then hopefully to Bristol,” Northam said.

“This extension will bring trains closer to where people live and work, expanding access and economic opportunity,” said Secretary Valentine.

The extension wasn’t the only milestone being celebrated on Monday.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service to and from Richmond’s Staples Mill Station was suspended in March 2020,” said Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler. “Today’s resumption of this service, which includes the extension to Main Street Station, marks the return to pre-pandemic service levels in Virginia.”

Tickets from Richmond to Washington, D.C. are now available for purchase.