Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Virginia’

Stadtler to Head Virginia Rail Authority

April 15, 2021

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority has named a former Amtrak executive as its executive director.

Appointed was Donald A. Stadtler Jr., who worked at Amtrak for 12 years. His positions at the intercity rail carrier included chief financial officer, chief operations officer, and chief administrative officer.

The Virginia agency, created last year, has a mandate to promote, sustain, and expand passenger and commuter rail service in the state.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a statement that Stadtler’s appointment represents an opportunity for the state to focus on customer service, safety, and performance.

Rail Partnership Reached in Virginia

April 9, 2021

Agreements have been reached on a $3.7 million partnership to expand rail passenger service in Virginia.

The parties to the pact, CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express, will work toward improving passenger, commuter, and freight railroad service in the state.

The improvements include construction of a new $1.9 billion, double-track bridge over the Potomac River to handle passenger and commuter trains. The existing bridge will be used only for freight trains.

The state plans to acquire 386 miles of rail right-of-way and 223 miles of track from CSX with an eye toward passenger service expansion over the next decade.

In some instances freight and passenger operations will have their own dedicated routes in the Interstate 95 corridor.

State officials said this will lay the groundwork for a high-speed route into North Carolina.

Track Work Affects Florida Trains

April 6, 2021

CSX track work has resulted in service changes for the Silver Star, Silver Meteor and Virginia corridor service.

Between April 2 and May 5 operations will be affected as follows.

On Friday through Sunday, April 3-May 5, the Silver Star will operate normally between New York and Savannah, Georgia.

Train 81 will depart Savannah at 4:33 a.m., 15 minutes later than normal; Jacksonville, Florida, at 7:29 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal, and will operate this later schedule at all stations between Jacksonville and Miami.

On Thursday through Saturday, April 2-May 1, the northbound Silver Star will operate normally between Miami and Hamlet, North Carolina. Train 92 will leave Hamlet at 6:29 a.m., 15 minutes later than normal; Raleigh, North Carolina, at 9:15 a.m., 30 minutes later than normal, and will operate this later schedule at all stations between Raleigh and New York.

On Monday through Thursday, April 19-May 5, the southbound Silver Meteor will depart Savannah at 6:45 a.m., 5 minutes later than normal, Jacksonville at 9:59 a.m., 25 minutes later than normal and will operate this later schedule at all stations between Jacksonville and Miami.

On Sunday through Wednesday, April 18-May 5, the northbound Silver Meteor will depart Savannah at 7:51 p.m., 20 minutes later than normal; Charleston at 9:42 p.m., 20 minutes later than normal, and will operate this later schedule at all stations between Charleston and New York.

Amtrak Thruway bus schedules 6091, 6097, 6291, 7591/7991 and 7597/7997will be adjusted to reflect later connection times.

The Carolinian, Palmetto and Auto Trains can expect up to 30 minute delays.

Va. Legislators OK Funding for Amtrak Expansion Project

March 5, 2021

Virginia legislators have approved a budget that includes $83.5 million to extend Amtrak service to the New River Valley and the Blacksburg-Christiansburg area.

The figure is a compromise between the $50 million originally approved by the House of Delegates and $137 million approved by the Senate.

As part of the project, a study will be conducted to consider extending Amtrak service to Bristol on the Virginia-Tennessee border.

The state is negotiating with Norfolk Southern on a contract to host the train.

Virginia Lawmakers OK New Passenger Agency

February 26, 2021

Virginia lawmakers have approved creation of a passenger rail authority that would promote extending Amtrak service to the New River Valley region of the state.

The new service would be achieved by extending an existing Amtrak Northeast Regional train to Christiansburg, Virginia.

The new passenger authority would include government bodies and universities that are expected to share the cost of building and maintaining a station in Christiansburg.

Virginia legislators are still negotiating the funding for the new service.

Gov. Ralph Northam is seeking $50 million for rail passenger service, which is what the House of Delegates has approved. The Virginia Senate has approved $137 million.

Officials expect the cost of starting the service could reach $200 million.

Virginia Governor Seeks $50M for New Amtrak Service

February 18, 2021

A proposal by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam for a $50 million one-time general fund allocation for intercity passenger-rail service has heartened residents of the New River Valley region of the state.

Northam wants to use the funding to establish a rail passenger corridor along U.S. Route 29 and Interstate 81.

The proposal would add a second daily round trip to Roanoke and provide new service to the New River Valley.

If adopted, the plan would extend the current and new Roanoke service to the New River Valley.

Virginia transportation officials say they are negotiating with host railroad Norfolk Southern for the additional service.

The state said the existing Amtrak service to Roanoke has been “very successful,” with ridership increasing from its inception in 2009 to more than 220,000 riders in 2019.

The currentl single daily roundtrip between Washington and Roanoke is covering all of its operating costs through ticket revenue.

A feasibility study found the New River Valley has a population of more than 180,000, including more than 40,000 university students.

Ridership for intercity rail passenger service to the region was projected to draw 80,000 riders.

Rail passenger advocates are seeking to form the New River Valley Passenger Rail Authority to oversee the service.

“Clearly this is a step forward because having an authority for example will allow us to do certain things that we can’t otherwise do,” said advocate Larry Hincker about the governor’s funding request.

The authority would bring the local governments together under a state-recognized umbrella.

Va. Officials Say Agreement Close With NS on New Train

January 25, 2021

Virginia officials say they are close to reaching an agreement with Norfolk Southern that would allow additional Amtrak service.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine told members of the House Appropriations Committee that the state has been talking with NS about new Amtrak service to the New River Valley.

“I will tell you that this has been a dream, really since the first train was launched in Lynchburg in 2009,” Valentine said. “And I can say to you we have never been as close as we are to getting this accomplished.”

Governor Ralph Northam has proposed a $50 million budget amendment to help pay for the new service.

Valentine noted that the Amtrak Northeast Regional service to Roanoke is the only Amtrak service in Virginia that covers all of its operating costs through ticket sales.

The extension of service to the New River Valley would add a second train.

The legislature is also considering a bill that would create a rail authority in the New River Valley. That legislation would help finance construction of a passenger rail station.

2 Retired NS Executives Join Virginia Passenger Rail Board

October 28, 2020

Two retired Norfolk Southern executives have been appointed to the board of directors of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.

Charles “Wick” Moorman, formerly served as NS chief executive officer and president of Amtrak. He joins Deborah Butler Painter on the board who also was with NS.

The 15-member board held its first meeting Monday. It is overseeing the efforts to improve rail transportation in the state.

That is expected to include the purchase of track and right of way from CSX as part of a project to create a passenger corridor linking Virginia and North Carolina.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine told board members that the agreement with CSX is not yet final due to delays associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board will also need to search for an executive director, create organizational bylaws, and approve a memorandum of understanding to set types of assistance and fees for help that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation can provide while the authority is developing the ability to function independently.

The board will have 12 voting members selected by the governor and ex-officio members representing Amtrak and commuter agency Virginia Railway Express.

Virginia Rail Service Set Record in December

February 15, 2020

Amtrak Northeast Regional routes serving Virginia saw record ridership of 100,511 passengers in December 2019, a 27 percent increase over the December 2018 ridership levels.

A news release credited the increased ridership to holiday season travel.

Amtrak serves Virginia on four routes, some of which also have long-distance service to Florida, Chicago and New Orleans.

Northeast Regional service links the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Newport News, Richmond, Lynchburg and Roanoke with Washington with some trains continuing on to New York and Boston.

The news release noted that since 2009, Amtrak service in Virginia has grown from one to four routes with multiple daily round-trip trains.

Virginia Plan Doesn’t Specify Expansion to Bristol

January 2, 2020

Amtrak and the state of Virginia made a big splash recently with their announcement of an agreement that included host railroad CSX about a $3.7 billion plan that will lead to expanded rail passenger service.

But it is not clear if that also includes a proposal to extend Northeast Regional Service to Bristol, Virginia.

The plan as announced said nothing about expanding Amtrak service to Bristol.

The City of Bristol and the Bristol Chamber of Commerce have been working in recent years to seek to get Amtrak service extended from its current terminus in Roanoke, Virginia.

“We are very pleased to see that passenger rail in Virginia continues to be a part of an ongoing conversation and budgetary priorities,” said Beth Rhinehart, president and CEO of the Bristol Chamber.

“We were, however, disappointed that an extension to and through Bristol was not included in the recent report from the governor’s office.”

She said extending rail passenger service to Bristol and into Tennessee, “would make a huge positive impact on the economies of these communities and a great alternative for travel — for both business and leisure travelers across the Commonwealth.”

A study released last May by the Community Transportation Association of America predicted that extending Amtrak service to Bristol would draw 23,600 annual riders from Bristol, 16,800 at Wytheville and 40,200 at Christiansburg.

Roanoke, which serves 97,600 riders annually, would likely lose about 8,400 annually if the other stops are added.

Amtrak figures show patronage between Lynchburg/Roanoke and Washington increased by 7.1 percent during fiscal 2019, from 206,000 to nearly 221,000.

A major stumbling block to the extension to Bristol has been the lack of cooperation from host railroad Norfolk Southern.

The freight carrier withdrew in late 2018 from negotiations with the state and Amtrak to use its tracks between Roanoke and Bristol.

At the time, NS said it wanted to focus on other aspects of its business most notably its shift to the precision scheduled railroading operating model.

A study found that $30 million in track improvements would be needed to enable passenger service between Bristol and Roanoke.

Another hurdle, which the recent Virginia expansion plan does address, was a moratorium on passenger rail expansion due to capacity constraints on the Long Bridge over the Potomac River between Virginia and Washington.

The agreement with CSX and Amtrak that Virginia has reached calls for construction of a passenger-only bridge over the Potomac.

Although service to Bristol was not specifically mentioned in the announcement of the pact with CSX and Amtrak, a statement issued by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam referenced unspecified future expansion of passenger rail service.

That could potentially include service to Bristol.