Posts Tagged ‘Virginia Railway Express’

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.

Amtrak Suspending Some Washington Service

January 18, 2021

In advance of the inauguration of president-elect Joseph Biden, Amtrak is suspending some services to Washington.

In a service advisory, the passenger carrier said it will not operate Northeast Regional service south of Washington on Jan 19 and 20.

The New York-Charlotte Carolinian will only operate in North Carolina between Raleigh and Charlotte on those dates.

Long distance trains operating to or through Washington will be unaffected, including the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

Amtrak said passengers whose trips begin or end in Washington should be aware that there will be pedestrian and vehicle restrictions at and around Washington Union Station.

This includes the closure of DC Metro’s Union Station stop. Passengers are being directed to use Metro’s NOMA/Gallaudet station, which Amtrak described as being a short walk from Union Station. Metro will operate on a modified schedule.

MARC commuter trains to Maryland and West Virginia have been suspended and Virginia Railway Express said its trains will not run Monday through Wednesday.

The service advisory said there will be no access to taxi or ride share services at WUS.

Unions Seek Protection for Trains in Washington

January 13, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have asked the Federal Railroad Administration and Department of Homeland Security to protect passengers and railroad workers of Amtrak, MARC and Virginia Railway Express services in and around Washington.

The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen said they are seeking additional security measures in the wake of rioting that occurred in the nation’s capital on Jan. 6.

The unions have asked federal authorities for a minimal standard that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.

The letter to the FRA and Homeland Security sent by the unions cited  “the very real risk and potential for additional violence and riots.” It noted that Washington remains on high alert.

Environmental Review Completed for New Bridge Over Potomac River Near Washington

September 11, 2020

An eEnvironmental plan for replacement of a bridge in Washington has been completed.

The Long Bridge, which is owned by CSX, is used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, CSX and Norfolk Southern to cross the Potomac River between Washington and Virginia.

The bridge has long been a rail chokepoint and has just two tracks.

Built in 1904, it is operating at 98 percent capacity during peak traffic periods, a fact that has precluded expansion of rail passenger service.

Plans are in the works for Virginia to fund construction of a new two-track bridge over the Potomac that will be used only by passenger trains.

Officials said the completion of environmental work means the project can advance to the final engineering, design, financing and construction phases.

The $1.9 billion project now is eligible for additional federal financing opportunities.

Contract Awarded for WUS Project

July 23, 2020

Work will begin on a construction project at Washington Union Station that Amtrak said will not affect scheduled train operations.

The project will increase the rail capacity at WUS and is known as the Track 22 Reconstruction Project.

Amtrak awarded a contract to Skanska USA Civil Northeast to oversee the rebuilding of the  platform, restoring historic columns, and constructing a new covered walkway to provide customer access to the platform via a new elevator, escalator, and stairs to the station.

In a news release, Amtrak said the track was previously used for equipment storage.

Funding is being provided in part by a $19 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

 

Proposed Virginia Gas Tax Hike Would Benefit Rail

January 28, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed an increase in gasoline taxes to help pay for an ambitious expansion of rail passenger service.

The increase of 4 cents per gallon would raise revenue for an expansion of track capacity that in turn would lead the way to increase service provided by Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak.

Northam made the proposal during a speech before a joint session of the Virginia legislature.

Earlier the state had announced that it has reached an agreement with Amtrak and CSX on a $3.7 billion program that includes a new bridge over the Potomac River to Washington and the acquisition for $525 million of 225 miles of track and 350 miles of railroad right of way from CSX.

Other components of the plan include a fourth mainline track between Crystal City and Alexandria, a third track from Franconia to Lorton, six new passing sidings, and a Franconia-to-Springfield bypass that would be used by passenger trains.

The program would be implemented over a 10-year period.

The gas tax increase, which is expected to yield $1 billion over the next four years, was among the transportation initiatives in a proposal Northam released on Monday.

Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine has said that without a gas tax increase or other new funding source the state projects a drop in funding available for road construction and other projects.

“Virginia’s transportation [funding] system is simply not sustainable the way we are going,” Valentine said.

She said that in the long term the statement might need to rely on tolls or other fees tied to the number of miles driven or the type of roads that motorists use.

However, Valentine said those fees are at least a decade away.

Virginia’s gasoline tax is currently 16.2 cents per gallon although motorist in some regions of the state pay an average of 21.9 cents.

“I think there’s going to be some challenging discussions and decisions and perhaps how we look at our multimodal platform,” Valentine said.

“The consensus seems to be that over the next 10-15 years, there will most likely be a different way of raising major transportation revenues, whether it’s from a mileage based user fee, vehicle miles traveled, there will be some different form. That is a longer term perspective.”

The Washington Post reported that Northam’s gas tax proposal will also be used for an effort to lower traffic fatalities on state highways and ensuring the state’s transportation fund remains solvent to support critical transit, including Washington Metro, and infrastructure projects.

“Our legislation will make our roads safer. It will put in place sustainable streamlined transportation funding, it will improve transit, it will help fix our roads and bridges, and expand passenger and commuter rail service throughout Virginia,” Northam said at a news conference.

A number of proposals to lower the gasoline tax in recent years have failed and former Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in 2013 proposed eliminating the tax. Instead the legislature lowered it.

The number of miles being driven by motorists in Virginia has been increasing, but gasoline tax receipts have fallen due to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy has said 31 states have increased or changed their gasoline taxes in the past 10 years with 22 states imposing variable rate gas taxes as a hedge against inflation.

The Northam transportation proposal also would create a new rail authority, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, and authorize the sale of bonds backed by toll revenue collected on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway.

The new authority would have a mandate to manage the purchase and ownership of track the state plans to buy from CSX.

It will also “promote, sustain, and expand the availability of passenger and commuter rail service in the Commonwealth.”

The gas tax increase, if approved by lawmakers, would take effect July 1.

Virginia Announces $3.7B Rail Passenger Expansion Pact

December 21, 2019

An agreement involving Amtrak, CSX and the Commonwealth of Virginia would result in hourly rail service within 10 years between Washington and Richmond.

The $3.7 billion pact will also pave the way for expansion of intercity rail passenger service to other parts of the state.

CSX will get increased capacity on its lines that are used by Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains.

State officials said the agreement will give Virginia control over 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 of existing track in three rail corridors.

This includes the former Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac line now owned by CSX between Richmond and Washington.

As part of the agreement, the double-track mainline through Ashland, Virginia, will remain unchanged.

Central to the agreement is the Long Bridge, a two-track structure over the Potomac River at Washington that is used by CSX, VRE and Amtrak and is at near capacity during peak times.

Virginia will be allowed to build and own a new bridge parallel to the existing structure that will be used only for passenger trains.

That bridge, which is now undergoing an environmental review, will also contain a span for bicycles and pedestrians.

The existing Long Bridge, which is 115 years old, will be reserved for use by CSX.

Virginia will build and own separate tracks for passenger service between Alexandria and L’Enfant Station in Washington.

The state also plans to build a flyover near Springfield and Franconia to allow passenger trains to cross from the east side of the rail line to the west to cross the new bridge.

The bridge project is expected to be completed by 2030 although it could open as early as 2028.

The first phase of the expansion project will involve building four miles of track in Fairfax County from Franconia south to Lorton by 2024.

The second phase will add by 2026, adds 19 miles of track, including the flyover in Fairfax and a third track in Hanover County north of Ashland that would serve as a siding for coordinating rail traffic.

An additional six daily Amtrak Northeast Regional trains will be added between Richmond and Washington with the first additional train launching in 2020.

Additional trains are planned to Norfolk in 2010 and to Newport News by 2026.

Amtrak now has five Northeast Regional trains that serve Richmond via the Staples Mill Road Station in Henrico County.

But just two of them stop at Richmond’s Main Street Station in Shockoe Bottom.

Four more Amtrak long-distance trains stop at Staples Mill and Virginia wants to see those trains able to serve Main Street Station.

In announcing the rail expansion plan, Virginia transportation officials said its purpose is to relieve traffic gridlock on Interstate 95.

They said that the cost of expanding rail service is one-third of the cost of adding a new I-95 lane.

VRE service to Northern Virginia, including additional trains through Manassas, are expected to relieve rush-hour traffic on I-95 and I-66.

CSX will receive $525 million from the state for the right-of-way and existing track on three rail lines.

That includes half of the 112 miles of right-of-way and 39 miles of track that CSX owns between Richmond and Washington, passenger train rights to 30 miles of track between Richmond and Petersburg, 75 miles of right-of-way on CSX’s abandoned S-Line between Petersburg and Ridgeway, North Carolina, and 173 miles of right-of-way and 186 miles of track on the Buckingham Branch Line between Doswell and Clifton Forge.

Amtrak is expected to contribute $944 million to the project, which also would be financed by the state and regional partners, including the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, co-owners of VRE.

State funding will come from Virginia’s partnership with the federal government on the Atlantic Gateway project in the I-95 corridor, and regional toll revenues from the I-66 expansion inside the Capital Beltway. The project would require authorization of bonds, but not for tax-supported debt.

VRE capacity would increase by 75 percent, leading to 15-minute headways during peak service hours. Additional service will be added on weekends.

The additional VRE service will include five daily VRE trains between Spotsylvania County and Washington and four additional VRE trains on the Manassas Line between Washington and Broad Run in Prince William County.

Virginia officials will need to reach an agreement with Norfolk Southern, which owns a portion of the Manassas Line.

The agreement also has the potential to enable Maryland-funded commuter rail service MARC to expand service from Baltimore into Northern Virginia once the new Potomac River bridge is completed.

MARC service now operates no farther south than Washington Union Station.

FRA OKs Virginia Project Environmental Study

September 11, 2019

An environmental impact statement for the proposed higher-speed intercity passenger-rail project between Washington and Richmond, Virginia, has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration .

FRA approval completes the EIS study process and makes the project eligible for federal funding to continue planning the project.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation won a $44 million federal grant in 2014 that paid for nearly 80 percent of environmental study.

Other funding was provided by the state and CSX. The latter owns most of the 123-mile corridor that hosts trains of Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express.

Virginia transportation officials have said that once completed, the work will increase passenger train speed and capacity parallel to the congested Interstate 95 corridor, as well as accommodating future freight-rail growth opportunities at the Port of Virginia in Norfolk.

Amtrak Receives Grant for Washington Station Work

December 21, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded a $19 million grant to Amtrak to help pay for an expansion of track capacity at Washington Union Station.

Much of the work will focus on Track 22, located at the station’s lower level, which currently serves as a storage track for equipment.

During the expansion project, new track will be installed and rebuilding will be done of the platform.

The historic platform columns will be restored and a new walkway will be built to provide rider access to the platform on a new elevator, escalator and stairs to the station.

In a news release, Amtrak said it and Virginia Railway Express will benefit from the expanded track capacity. The work is expected to begin in 2022.

Virginia Wants More Service to Richmond

May 22, 2018

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation wants to see additional Amtrak service between Washington and Richmond, Virginia.

To provide that service, the agency said that two new tracks need to be constructed between Washington and Arlington, Virginia, after separate plans for an expanded Long Bridge are completed.

The Federal Railroad Administration and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation are expected to recommended a design and layout for the project later this year.

The recommendation for increased service to Richmond, which would also include an increase in service provided by Virginia Railway Express, was presented to  a Commonwealth Transportation Board subcommittee.