This section includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) for the following topics: Transforming Rail in Virginia, Program Partnerships, Future Projects, Coordinated Projects and Studies, and Program Benefits.
Find out more about Transforming Rail in Virginia
Transforming Rail in Virginia
Transforming Rail in Virginia is a $4 billion rail initiative that creates a path forward to connecting our communities and increasing economic opportunities through strategic investments in rail. Virginia’s partners in the program include Amtrak, CSX Transportation (CSXT), Norfolk Southern, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
Transforming Rail in Virginia:
- Develops capital projects and acquires railroad track and right-of-way to provide more rail capacity
- Expands high-quality modern passenger rail service across the Commonwealth by making it more frequent, reliable, and convenient
- Provides Virginians choice in moving people and goods efficiently through transportation corridors while accommodating growing travel demand
In addition, Transforming Rail in Virginia includes the Station Modernization Program, which improves the passenger experience across Virginia’s stations.
The Commonwealth of Virginia promotes multimodal solutions to moving people and goods efficiently through transportation corridors. Virginia’s interstate capacity is continuing to decline and the demand for additional rail service continues to increase. Across Virginia and the Washington Metropolitan Region, auto travelers experience 320 million hours of delay annually due to congestion, resulting in $6.5 billion in annual congestion costs.1 Current conditions and increasing demand mean more throughput capacity is needed in Virginia’s interstate corridors, and passenger rail provides the most cost-effective solution in the short and long term.
At the same time, passenger rail performance cannot improve, and services cannot grow, without expanding the existing infrastructure. Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and freight trains suffer delays repeatedly from train interference due to congestion on the railroad. The current Long Bridge over the Potomac River is one of the most significant rail bottlenecks along the entire East Coast of the United States. Long Bridge is currently at 98 percent capacity during the peak period.
Population in the Transforming Rail in Virginia corridors and adjacent urban regions continues to grow, increasing demand for reliable and safe travel options for passengers. Between 2030 and 2040, Virginia’s population is expected to increase from 8.7 million to 10.2 million.2 In addition to overall population growth, changing demographics in the corridor and adjacent urban regions are increasing the demand for passenger rail service. Population growth is forecast to be highest in the corridor from Washington, DC, to Richmond to Hampton Roads and to disproportionately include young professionals and people over the age of 65.
Demand for freight movement through and within the corridor also is growing. The Port of Virginia is the eighth-largest port by tonnage in the United States and one of the fastest-growing ports on the East Coast.3 Over the next 20 years, containerized cargo volume coming into the United States is expected to triple. A large proportion of port cargo arrives or departs by rail. Ongoing expansion of Virginia’s deep-water ports and intermodal facilities, and the planned construction of the new Craney Island Marine Terminal, further increases the need for efficient freight shipping.
Infrastructure improvements are needed to meet both existing and growing future demand for freight and passenger rail service in the corridor to improve mobility for Virginians.
1 Texas Transportation Institute, 2019 Urban Mobility Report. https://mobility.tamu.edu/umr/congestion-data/
2 University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. https://news.virginia.edu/content/population-projections-virginia-expected-become-10th-largest-state-2040
3 DC to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Statement. 2017.
- Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA)
- Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
- CSX Transportation (CSXT)
- Norfolk Southern Railroad
- Virginia Railway Express (VRE)
- Buckingham Branch Railroad Company (BBRC)
Each entity will have roles in Transforming Rail in Virginia to deliver and participate in projects to improve the reliability and frequency of passenger and freight rail services.
The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) is an independent authority created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2020 that, among other responsibilities, is responsible for delivering Transforming Rail in Virginia. The authority is dedicated to managing, funding, and growing statewide rail services and will partner with Amtrak to fund intercity passenger rail operations. VPRA has the authority to own and acquire rail infrastructure. The authority is governed by a statewide, geographically diverse board. VPRA will not operate passenger trains and will work with Amtrak (intercity passenger rail operator) and VRE (commuter rail operator), which are represented on the VPRA Board of Directors.
The Board is made up of 12 voting members, 1 ex-officio member from Amtrak, 1 ex-officio member from Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and the Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), who serves as Chairperson. VPRA legislation requires the Board meet quarterly, at a minimum. While the Board is staffing up the organization, DRPT is providing services to VPRA on a temporary basis. DRPT also provides support to the VPRA Board.
Transforming Rail in Virginia allows the Commonwealth to double Amtrak state-supported service and significantly increase Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Fredericksburg Line and Manassas Line service (including first-time-ever weekend and late-night service) during the next decade. The additional Manassas Line service is subject to agreement with Norfolk Southern since these trains operate on both CSXT- and Norfolk Southern-owned tracks.
Virginia’s Partnership with Amtrak, CSXT, and VRE (DC to Hampton Roads)
In partnership with CSX Transportation (CSXT), Virginia will build 37 miles of track and implement a series of infrastructure improvements in the Richmond to Washington, DC, corridor (including a new, two-track Long Bridge for passenger trains) to improve the reliability and frequency of passenger rail in the corridor. One new Amtrak round trip between Washington, DC, and Norfolk, VA, and one new round trip on VRE’s Fredericksburg Line will commence in the next year. Additional service will come online during the next decade incrementally as capacity improvements are completed. By the end of 2030, Amtrak service will double and VRE Fredericksburg Line service will increase by 75%.
Virginia’s Partnership with Norfolk Southern (DC to New River Valley)
In partnership with Norfolk Southern, a second state-supported Amtrak train will be added to the route between Washington, DC and Roanoke, and passenger rail will be extended to the New River Valley. Like the current state-supported Roanoke train, the second train will serve Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke and travel to and from Washington, DC, and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Infrastructure improvements will be made in coming years to allow the extension to the New River Valley, as well as add a 7-mile double-track south of Manassas to improve train fluidity along the corridor. Additionally, a study to determine the infrastructure required for a Bedford station will be undertaken.
Buckingham Branch Railroad (BBRR)
Virginia is acquiring nearly all the CSXT-owned right-of-way (164 miles) and track (179 miles) between Doswell, VA, and Clifton Forge, VA, paving the way for future consideration of passenger rail service in central Virginia.
S-Line (Petersburg to Raleigh, NC)
Virginia is acquiring all the CSXT-owned but out-of-service right-of-way (75 miles) between Petersburg, VA, and Ridgeway, NC (S-Line). The S-Line in North Carolina extends from Ridgeway to Raleigh, NC. With this acquisition, the Commonwealth may consider future passenger rail service in the corridor.
The Commonwealth is undertaking upgrades consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and will seek to partner with localities, Amtrak, and VRE to determine if other improvements could be undertaken to provide better customer amenities.
Transforming Rail in Virginia will be implemented through a series of capital improvements that directly relate to service enhancements.
Virginia’s Partnership with Amtrak, CSXT, and VRE (DC to Hampton Roads)
- a new, passenger-dedicated, two-track Long Bridge in Washington, DC;
- construction of 14 miles of mainline track; and
- construction of six sidings and a new bypass that will allow passenger trains to cross to the other side of the corridor without interfering with freight tracks.
Two of the four phases of infrastructure improvements, Phases 1 and 2, are funded and will be built out in the next 10 years. As improvements are completed, the additional capacity will allow more passenger rail service to come online. Future phases will allow for further separation of passenger and freight rail services, resulting in improved reliability and capacity.
Virginia’s Partnership with Norfolk Southern (DC to New River Valley)
Upon purchase of the Virginian Line (V-Line), the Commonwealth and Norfolk Southern will develop improvements between Salem and Christiansburg to accommodate passenger rail service. Foundational improvements include a new passenger station and platform near Christiansburg, for which the Commonwealth expects to partner with localities in the New River Valley on construction of a station building, parking, and access to the station. Improvement projects also include a new maintenance and storage facility, bypass tracks in the Roanoke Yard so passenger trains can get through the yard, track improvements between Salem and Christiansburg, and a 7-mile siding from Nokesville to Calverton that will result in a continuous 22-mile, two-track corridor from Manassas to Remington. Transforming Rail in Virginia will study the potential for a future station at Bedford, which would be subject to future funding availability for design and construction.
Station modernization will be implemented as part of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority’s (VPRA) ongoing capital programming process. Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is a partner in implementing station improvements at stations served by commuter rail. Learn more about station projects on the Virginia Railway Express website.
Transforming Rail in Virginia implements strategic rail investments through several initiatives and programs aimed at enhancing our communities and increasing economic opportunities. As of June 2021, Transforming Rail in Virginia investments are estimated at approximately $3.9 billion. A combination of federal, state, and local/regional funding sources have been identified to fund Transforming Rail in Virginia and additional funds have been secured through agreements with funding partners.
Transforming Rail in Virginia costs do not include operations and maintenance costs; however, operations and maintenance costs for the new service and new infrastructure have been separately accounted for and funding has been identified in the Transforming Rail in Virginia financial plan.
The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), acting on behalf of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), is the responsible agency for Transforming Rail in Virginia communications. DRPT will work with program partners to deliver consistent messaging that engages diverse stakeholders. In addition to program-level communications, which will include regular project briefings, various project development activities such as design public hearings, right-of-way acquisition, and construction notification will be coordinated. To stay informed, sign up for Transforming Rail in Virginia email distribution lists.
The corridor is generally designed to fit four rail tracks within the existing CSX Transportation (CSXT) right-of-way (with the exception of downtown Ashland and downtown Richmond); however, there may be circumstances where it is in the best interest of the project to acquire small amounts of right-of-way. These circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
On March 30, 2021, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced the completion of a set of transactional agreements with CSX Transportation (CSXT), a funding agreement with Amtrak, and operating and funding agreements with Virginia Railway Express (VRE). These are important milestones in implementing the Transforming Rail in Virginia program. Together, the CSXT, Amtrak, and VRE agreements provide Virginia the ability to expand Amtrak state-supported and VRE services, advance the separation of freight and passenger rail in the I-95 Corridor in Virginia and Washington, DC, and preserve future rail corridors.
The CSXT transaction includes the terms for acquisition of $525 million worth of right-of-way and track. This represents half of the rail corridor from Washington, DC, to Petersburg, VA, and the full corridors from Petersburg, VA, to Ridgeway, NC, and from Doswell, VA, to Clifton Forge, VA. The CSXT agreement finalizes roles and responsibilities in the two-phase, 10-year buildout of $3.2 billion in infrastructure improvements to include a new passenger-dedicated Long Bridge, the Alexandria Fourth Track, the Franconia to Lorton Third Track, the Franconia-Springfield Bypass, and six sidings.
On May 5, 2021, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced an agreement with Norfolk Southern to improve rail reliability and expand passenger service to Southwest Virginia. The $257 million investment is part of the Transforming Rail in Virginia program. The agreement, focused on the rail corridor between the New River Valley and Alexandria, is memorialized in a binding term sheet that is subject to the future negotiation and execution of legal agreements required to implement the transaction. The Commonwealth of Virginia will purchase a portion of the Norfolk Southern Virginian Line (V-Line) from the Salem Crossovers west of Roanoke to Christiansburg.
Next, the two entities must negotiate definitive legal agreements that further define terms including operations, maintenance, construction, and engineering.
The Amtrak funding agreement is an agreement under which Amtrak is partnering with Virginia to contribute $944 million to the Transforming Rail in Virginia program and make a long-term service commitment to the state for six new state-supported trains for a minimum of 30 years following the completion of the planned improvements.
Complementary Virginia Railway Express (VRE) operating and funding agreements were finalized in March 2021. The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) Boards met the first week in December and authorized the VRE chief executive officer (CEO) to execute the agreements. Under the operating agreement, additional train slots will be provided for VRE operations. Under the funding agreement, VRE is contributing more than $200 million.
The Amtrak funding agreement provides approximately 30 percent of the funding ($944 million) for improvements between Richmond and DC. As a result of the collective agreements, Virginia’s state-supported Amtrak service will double.
By the end of 2030, Amtrak state-supported service will nearly double and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) Fredericksburg and Manassas Line service will increase by 75 percent including new late-night and weekend service and assuming an agreement is reached with Norfolk Southern for the Manassas Line trains, with opportunities to expand even further beyond 2030.
Transforming Rail in Virginia will provide one new round trip between Washington, DC, and Norfolk, VA, and one new round trip on VRE’s Fredericksburg Line to commence next year based in part on the return to normal service levels due to COVID-19. Additional service will come online during the next decade incrementally as capacity improvements are completed in the right-of-way acquired by Virginia from CSXT.
Additionally, Transforming Rail in Virginia will double intercity passenger service from Washington, DC, to Roanoke and extend passenger rail service to the New River Valley:
- One additional round trip Amtrak train between Washington, DC and Roanoke, serving stations at Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg
- Extension of Amtrak service from Roanoke to Christiansburg (expected 2025)
- Study of potential for a future station at Bedford, subject to future funding availability
Virginia will own more than 400 miles of railroad right-of-way and 223 miles of track.
- 145 miles of right-of-way and 44 miles of track from Washington, DC, to Petersburg, VA, along the RF&P Railroad. CSXT will retain two mainline tracks currently on the ground, and any additional track will transfer to Virginia.
- 164 miles of right-of-way and 179 miles of track on BBRR from Doswell, VA, to Clifton Forge, VA
- 75 miles of out-of-service right-of-way from Petersburg, VA, to Ridgeway, NC
- 28.5-miles of the V-Line railroad right-of-way from the Salem Crossovers to Christiansburg along with the existing track and other infrastructure within the right-of-way. Norfolk Southern will retain operating rights within the Virginia-owned right-of-way.
17. Will there be any changes in terms of how the RF&P railroad corridor is maintained and operated?
During the next 10 years, CSX Transportation (CSXT) will continue to dispatch and maintain the RF&P railroad, the terms of which will be detailed in an operating agreement. The agreement provides the terms and conditions for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express’ (VRE) operation on Virginia-owned tracks. Amtrak will dispatch trains from Alexandria, VA, to Washington Union Station upon completion of the Phase 2 improvements on behalf of Virginia and points further south once future improvements are made allowing for further separation of passenger and freight services.
The Buckingham Branch Railroad Company (BBRC) will continue to dispatch and maintain the Buckingham Branch Railroad (BBRR) through an agreement with the Commonwealth.
18. How will VPRA, CSXT, Amtrak, and VRE work together to deliver the infrastructure projects between Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA?
CSX Transportation (CSXT), Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) are leading individual Phase 1 and 2 projects through project development, design, and construction with technical support from Amtrak. CSXT will continue to operate freight trains along the corridor and Amtrak and VRE will continue to operate passenger rail service while the program is delivered. All entities will meet regularly to coordinate and manage capital projects and service elements and to minimize disruption to existing passenger and freight rail services due to construction.
Phase 3 and 4 projects will result in dedicated passenger track where Virginia Railway Express (VRE) operates on the Fredericksburg Line.
Phase 3 will result in the completion of the third track to Arkendale by connecting sidings constructed in Phases 1 and 2. Phase 3 incorporates a third track on the Occoquan River crossing and Woodbridge station improvements.
Phase 4 will result in the completion of the third track to Spotsylvania by connecting sidings constructed in Phases 1 and 2. Phase 4 incorporates a third track on the Rappahannock River crossing and Fredericksburg station improvements.
Phases 3 and 4 will start when Virginia has identified funding for those projects. The completion of Phases 3 and 4 will allow for further passenger rail service in the corridor and the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) will continue to apply for additional federal funds to advance these projects.
The Buckingham Branch Railroad Company (BBRC) is the largest short line railroad company in Virginia and operates 275 miles of track over four divisions (between Bremo and Dilwyn, Richmond and Allegheny, Southern, and Norfolk). A short line railroad is a small- or mid-sized railroad company that operates over a relatively short distance relative to larger, national railroad networks. CSX Transportation (CSXT) owned all of the BBRR between Richmond and Clifton Forge and held a lease with the BBRC to operate and maintain the railroad. BBRR dispatches trains for CSXT and Amtrak and has eight interchanges each with CSXT and Norfolk Southern, creating freight connections across North America.
With the CSXT transaction, Virginia will own a portion of the BBRR between Clifton Forge and Doswell. CSXT will retain ownership of the line from Doswell to Richmond. Virginia will have an agreement with the BBRC for their continued operation and maintenance of the line. The BBRR purchase preserves this corridor for potential expanded passenger rail service in the future.
The S-Line is an out-of-service rail corridor in Virginia and North Carolina. Virginia is acquiring the entire abandoned right-of-way section owned by CSX Transportation (CSXT) from Petersburg, VA, to Ridgeway, NC. The S-Line is a key link in the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) Corridor and the purchase preserves this corridor for potential future passenger rail service. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded North Carolina a $47.6 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant to help the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) purchase and preserve the rail corridor between Raleigh, NC, and Ridgeway, NC.1 If the North Carolina transaction moves ahead, together with Transforming Rail in Virginia, it will create the opportunity for a future passenger corridor to be built between Richmond, VA, and Raleigh, NC, along the selected alignment from the Richmond to Raleigh Southeast High Speed Rail environmental study completed in March 2017.
Coordinated Project and Studies
The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has been coordinating planning efforts with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and neighboring states for the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) Corridor. Established in 1992 as one of the five original national high-speed rail corridors by the US Department of Transportation (USDOT), the SEHSR aims to provide faster and more reliable rail service between Washington, DC; Richmond, VA; North Carolina; and points south. The corridor has been broken down into segments, which have federal National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) studies advancing on different timelines. Environmental studies for several segments in the SEHSR corridor have already been completed, including DC to Richmond Southeast High-Speed Rail (DC2RVA).
Transforming Rail in Virginia is advancing improvements and increased passenger service levels that are consistent with the SEHSR and DC2RVA.
24. How does Transforming Rail in Virginia relate to the DC2RVA project and the Long Bridge project (previously led by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT))?
The DC2RVA Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD), along with the Long Bridge Project FEIS and ROD, provide the environmental clearance for most of the rail projects between Washington, DC, and Richmond, VA. Transforming Rail in Virginia is delivering improvements and increased passenger service levels that are consistent with DC2RVA and the Long Bridge projects.
Virginia has assumed sponsorship of the Long Bridge project from DDOT, which was outlined in the Long Bridge FEIS and ROD. All Transforming Rail in Virginia projects will be completed within designated environmental clearances applicable to each project.
Program Benefits and Other Information
States can request additional Amtrak passenger rail service if the state pays a portion of the costs. State-supported trains are generally shorter-distance trains covering specific routes compared to the Amtrak long-distance trains, which traverse much longer distances covering multiple states. Virginia is one of 18 states providing state-supported service. In December 2012, Amtrak and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) inaugurated service to Petersburg and Norfolk from Washington, DC, and Richmond. In October 2017, the Washington, DC, to Lynchburg service was extended to Roanoke.
Railroad operations are constrained due to conflicts between freight and passenger trains, which operate at different speeds and must be carefully coordinated. The separation of passenger and freight trains will eliminate this conflict, reducing train interference delays, and improving network fluidity.
Transforming Rail in Virginia is a path to full separation of freight and passenger rail service on many of Virginia’s rail corridors. This separation and associated infrastructure projects increase capacity and will allow Virginia, Amtrak, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) to coordinate and grow passenger rail services according to market demand rather than being driven by the timing of relieving capacity constraints.
Once Virginia completes construction of a separate passenger rail corridor, Virginia and CSX Transportation (CSXT) will benefit from freight-dedicated tracks free of passenger rail traffic. This will allow CSXT to better serve the Port of Virginia and Richmond Marine Terminal, which are seeking an increase in rail services to address expansion plans and support increasing demand to transport freight goods by rail due to congestion on the vehicular road network.