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Passenger Trains > Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer


Date: 01/11/20 15:52
Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: amtrakbill

From the Washington Post

Virginia closed 2019 with a bold pledge to significantly grow passenger rail service in the commonwealth this decade by building a new rail bridge over the Potomac River, adding new rail track in the Washington-to-Richmond corridor and buying hundreds of miles of passenger right of way from CSX.
The $3.7 billion plan, announced Dec. 19, will put Virginia in control of rail service increases, allow Amtrak to double the number of trains operating in the state and expand Virginia Railway Express service to the nation’s capital beyond peak rush hour within a decade.
New intercity and commuter train service could begin as early as this year, according to the proposal’s timeline.
Environmental and rail advocates have called the plan a “game changer” that will transform rail transportation in the Washington region. A major chokepoint in the region’s rail system would be eliminated, and a path toward separating passenger and freight trains — improving efficiency — would be established.
“It is going to allow us to control our destiny when it comes to rail service, commuter rail service, the performance of the service and the reliability,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine said.
Some details about how the plan will be carried out have yet to be finalized. The central deal with CSX still needs a sign-off, and funds still need to be raised, but here’s what is known about the plan and what to expect this year:
Virginia to build Long Bridge and acquire CSX right of way to expand passenger train service

The deal
Under an agreement with CSX, Virginia would build a new, $1.9 billion rail bridge over the Potomac to expand capacity for passenger trains. The new span will run parallel to the existing two-track Long Bridge, the 115-year-old structure owned by CSX that carries all Amtrak, VRE and freight trains between the District and Virginia.
The state also will purchase 225 miles of track and 350 miles of railroad right of way from CSX for $525 million, including half the right of way between Washington and Richmond.
Outside the Washington region, Virginia will acquire from CSX the 186 miles of tracks on the Buckingham Branch Line, between Doswell and Clifton Forge. That will allow Virginia to launch an east-west train route from Norfolk to the Roanoke area. The commonwealth also will acquire the rights to use the abandoned S-Line from Petersburg to Ridgeway, N.C., an investment that would facilitate plans for a high-speed train system in the Southeast.
The plan calls for the construction of 37 miles of new track, including a fourth track approaching the Long Bridge from Alexandria, a third track from Franconia to Occoquan and a rail bypass at Franconia-Springfield.
A 10-year plan in phases
The improvements will be made over a decade. Virginia aims to finalize the deal with CSX by midyear, which will include the acquisition of some of the right of way this year. This will allow Virginia to quickly introduce new trains in the corridor.
Then Virginia will begin Phase 1 of the project, which includes construction of about 23 miles of new track in the Interstate 95 corridor in Northern Virginia. This will allow the state to add more trains by 2026. Phase 2, which includes completion of the Long Bridge, 14 more miles of new track and the addition of more Amtrak and VRE trains, is scheduled to be finished in 2030.
Amtrak aspires to a 2-hour D.C.-N.Y. trip, but it’s going to take a lot more than faster trains

The plan for the Long Bridge
Virginia’s announcement concurs with a years-long proposal to expand the Long Bridge, which is owned by CSX. The Federal Railroad Administration and the District, which are leading an environmental review of the project, released a draft impact statement in September that lays out a preferred five-year construction process that would keep the Long Bridge and build a second two-track bridge next to it to create a four-track crossing.
Virginia officials say the plan is to build that second bridge, following the FRA’s final recommendation, expected to be released this year. The federal review estimates construction will cost $1.9 billion.
Virginia anticipates the bridge will be completed in 2027. The bridge, along with the other rail investments south of it, will be paid for with available resources that exist today, officials said.
Under the Virginia-CSX deal, the railroad company will retain ownership of the Long Bridge and two tracks south of it. The state will own the new bridge and a third and fourth track from the new bridge that will carry passenger trains. It will also own half the right of way between Washington and Richmond.
Portions of the I-95 rail line already have a third track, which Virginia will own under the agreement, and the state is pledging to build a third and fourth track along other stretches. Passenger trains will be able to exclusively use that third and fourth track where available, avoiding delays due to freight traffic.
Does Virginia's plan include a pedestrian bridge?
As part of the Long Bridge project, a stand-alone bike and pedestrian bridge would be built upstream from the new rail bridge, allowing people to walk or bike across the Potomac River between the D.C. waterfront and Crystal City in Arlington. Virginia officials said the state plans to build that pedestrian and bike bridge.
“We are working with our regional partners to determine how it will be funded and implemented,” Virginia Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donohue said.
What is the effect on VRE?
The infrastructure investments will result in a dedicated passenger-rail corridor between Franconia and the District, allowing for more passenger trains. VRE’s Fredericksburg line, which uses the CSX tracks, will see an increase in service of 75 percent, or 15 intervals, during peak periods by the plan’s completion. VRE will also be able to introduce weekend service.
The Fredericksburg line, which runs eight round-trip trains each weekday, will add five new round-trip trains during the weekday rush hour and introduce three round trips on Saturday and Sunday. The agreement, officials said, will allow VRE to add special Friday evening trains to give Virginians the option to use VRE after hours.
A project timeline indicates a round trip could be added this year between Washington and Spotsylvania County. State rail officials say that although the slot to add the new train will be available this year, service may start in 2021. Two more round trips will be added in 2026 and two additional round trips in 2030. Weekend service is planned to begin in 2026, according to the timeline.
On the Manassas Line, which also has eight round trips, Virginia officials say they will be negotiating with Norfolk Southern, which owns those tracks, to add service there. The plan calls for new round-trip service this year and three other trains in 2026.
MARC, VRE say on-time performance has dropped, cite increase in CSX trains as one factor

How is Amtrak service going to change?
The agreement with CSX will allow Virginia to double the number of state-funded Amtrak trains in the I-95 corridor, providing nearly hourly service between Washington and Richmond.
Today, Amtrak runs five Northeast Regional trains to Richmond. Officials anticipate adding six additional daily round trips to Richmond and two extended trains to the Hampton Roads area.
A new round trip from Washington to Norfolk is planned to start late in 2020 or early next year. Two additional trains would be added — one ending in Richmond and the other in Newport News — by 2026, and three additional to Richmond would be added by the end of the decade.
Who will fund the $3.7 billion plan?
Virginia transportation officials have come up with a formula that splits the $3.7 billion into three funding sources: federal, state and regional.
Virginia will assume about one-third of the cost using existing rail funding and additional discretionary funds available through the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Federal funds will cover about another third of the price tag, including the $45 million rail share from the federal grant to the Atlantic Gateway project, which addresses the bottlenecks on the I-95 corridor with improvements to the rail network. Amtrak intends to invest $944 million, which would contribute to the federal funding share, state officials said.
The final portion would come from regional partners, including the District, Maryland, VRE and other Northern Virginia transportation boards, Virginia officials said. The District and Maryland have pledged support for a bridge expansion, but it is unclear how much each jurisdiction would be willing to contribute.
So is it is a done deal?
Virginia officials say they will finalize the agreement with CSX and execute it by midyear. Virginia will be able to run more trains in the I-95 corridor as soon as the deal is finalized, meaning some service additions to VRE and Amtrak could happen as early as this summer.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 01/11/20 18:02
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Lackawanna484

CSX dispatchers already do an impressive job moving trains over the RF&P's northern end.  I've mentioned the effort every weekday between 3-5 pm. One sb CSX intermodal, one nb and one sb VRE local, two Amtrak regionals, and the Auto-Tain pulling out and getting up to speed, which takes a while.

Completing the segments of third track, more crossovers, etc will be very helpful



Date: 01/11/20 18:43
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: PC1974

From the article... "Some details about how the plan will be carried out have yet to be finalized. The central deal with CSX still needs a sign-off, and funds still need to be raised...".

So it's a game changing idea at this point....



Date: 01/11/20 18:58
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Passfanatic

It will be great having close to hourly Amtrak service from NYC to the Capitol area of Virginia.



Date: 01/12/20 02:36
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: bobwilcox

This is a big deal.  Virginia hasn't had so much skin in the game since the 1850s.  This will take years to play out.  They aren't becoming the BB’s landlord to move empty coal trains back to WV.

Bob Wilcox
Charlottesville, VA
My Flickr Shots



Date: 01/12/20 06:54
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Passfanatic

It will still be years until more Amtrak trains continue beyond DC. It's very important that the Long Bridge project gets done as well as the other track capacity projects along the RF&P. The present Amtrak frequencies, even between DC and Richmond, is poor. On weekends, there is a little over a three hour gap at RVR between Amtrak Train # 65 and Amtrak Train # 89. Heading north daily, there is a 3 hour gap between 80 and 90 at RVR. On a more positive note, the frequencies are ok from RVR to WAS on Saturdays early in the morning-that is departing RVR. 164 departs RVR at 6:35 and then an hour later(Saturdays only), you have 82. After 82 departs, there is 88 which departs RVR at 8:25. If you live in Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg, and Quantico and want to make a Saturday daytrip to DC, you have more frequent options than Sunday.



Date: 01/12/20 11:43
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: MEKoch

With skin in the game, I hope the Cardinal routing is now secure and that the train can become daily.  

I further hope that VA & NC can agree on rebuilding the Seaboard Airline from Petersburg to Raleigh into a 110 mph passenger railroad.  

The State of VA is to be commended for taking the lead on seeking good rail transportation for the state (freight & passenger).  It will pay economic dividends.  I only wish other states were so thoughtful and had vision beyond the next election.  



Date: 01/12/20 13:14
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Passfanatic

It's a must that Petersburg to Raleigh by way of Henderson gets upgraded to a 110 mph railroad which, I think, will happen.That's going to shave a few hours off of the trip from NEC points, Northern VA, and Richmond to the major population centers of North Carolina. I wonder if there is a chance that the train schedule will cater to a person who might live in Northern Virginia and work a 9-5 job in Downtown Richmond?



Date: 01/13/20 06:30
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Dcmcrider

Now that the dust has settled a bit from the Governor's pre-holiday announcement, I think "game changer" is a little over the top. It's another step in the incremental approach that's been the state's policy dating back to the 1990s.

Additional Richmond and Tidewater service -- one train this year and two more by 2026. "Hourly," as "Passfanatic" notes, is illusory and only if you include the Silver trains.

DRPT has a chart outlining the additional service--most of which is six to ten years away.

http://www.drpt.virginia.gov/media/3018/amtrak-service-plan-01072020.pdf

225 miles of "track" but only 39 miles is on the RF&P? The bigger share by far is 186 miles of the former C&O between Doswell and Clifton Forge now leased to the Buckingham Branch.

"Half" the right-of-way on the RF&P--upon which Virginia intends to build spot improvements.  CSX is not "selling" the railroad and remains firmly in control of its major north-south artery. It also perhaps avoids thorny property tax issues that held up improvements in upstate NY for years.

S-Line? CSX shareholders will be pleased the company unloaded that dormant asset on a willing buyer.

If there's anything "game changing" it's the construction of the second two-track Long Bridge project--and Virginia taking over the project as the lead agency, replacing the District Dept of Transportation. The biggest beneficiary there is VRE, and the project is still highly dependent on federal funds. Another unanswered question is where does Amtrak magically come up with $944 million, other than as a "pass-through" from a federal appropriation or an RRIF loan?

http://www.drpt.virginia.gov/media/3006/vre-future-service-plan-12182019.pdf

Paul Wilson
Arlington, VA



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/13/20 06:44 by Dcmcrider.



Date: 01/13/20 07:13
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Lackawanna484

The various plans for the Gateway Tunnel under the Hudson River, and expansion of Penn Station also call for Amtrak to put more cash into construction.  Looks like their share of the Gateway, plus Penn, plus VA could be in the six to seven billion dollar range. That's a lot of lifting.



Date: 01/14/20 05:43
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: mbrotzman

How does traffic on the Long Bridge today compare with the 1930's and 40's?  I would assume that traffic levels used to be higher.  if so, why is it now suddenly a bottleneck?



Date: 01/14/20 07:30
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: ctillnc

> It's a must that Petersburg to Raleigh by way of
> Henderson gets upgraded to a 110 mph railroad
> which, I think, will happen.That's going to shave
> a few hours off of the trip from NEC points,

No. Today's schedule has Raleigh to Richmond Staples Mill Road in about 3 hours 20 minutes. The objective of 110 mph is two hours flat, although that's a little misleading because SEHSR assumes the Richmond station is Main Street. Bottom line, SEHSR would cut about 1 hour 15 minutes from today's time.

Nobody has figured out where the billion+ dollars would come from to move all the earth between Raleigh and Petersburg for prolonged 110 mph running, not to mention buying the Raleigh-Norlina ROW from CSX and the other off-budget costs. Don't get carried away. 



Date: 01/14/20 11:33
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: DefectDetector

The plan is quite ambitious.  Not sure how they can start something new when they can't even finish the Arkendale to Powells Creek triple track project? 



Date: 01/14/20 13:36
Re: Virginia Rail Deal is a game changer
Author: Dcmcrider

ctillnc Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> > It's a must that Petersburg to Raleigh by way
> of
> > Henderson gets upgraded to a 110 mph railroad
> > which, I think, will happen.That's going to
> shave
> > a few hours off of the trip from NEC points,
>
> No. Today's schedule has Raleigh to Richmond
> Staples Mill Road in about 3 hours 20 minutes. The
> objective of 110 mph is two hours flat, although
> that's a little misleading because SEHSR assumes
> the Richmond station is Main Street. Bottom line,
> SEHSR would cut about 1 hour 15 minutes from
> today's time.

3:44 southbound and 3:22 northbound for Amtrak's Silver Star, via the Selma dogleg, including two stops at Petersburg and Rocky Mount. The SCL's 1971 pre-Amtrak Silver did the trip via the S-Line in 2:55, from Richmond Broad St., including a stop in Petersburg. Not a huge time savings, even though the S-Line route is 35 miles shorter. The route is 135 miles from Petersburg to Raleigh via the S-Line, 169 miles via the current route of the A-Line and the Selma dogleg.
>
> Nobody has figured out where the billion+ dollars
> would come from to move all the earth between
> Raleigh and Petersburg for prolonged 110 mph
> running, not to mention buying the Raleigh-Norlina
> ROW from CSX and the other off-budget costs. Don't
> get carried away.

Yes, despite its name, the Seaboard "Air Line" in Virginia was very sinuous. Adult money will be required to eliminate curvature.

Paul Wilson
Arlington, VA



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