Northam Announces Western Rail Initiative to Provide Washington-to-Roanoke Passenger Train


The New River Valley will have passenger rail service by 2025 for the first time since 1979, thanks to the new $257.2 million Western Rail Initiative announced by Governor Ralph Northam on Wednesday. The initiative is part of an agreement with Norfolk Southern. Northam said the passenger service would boost tourism and economic growth.

In an announcement, Northam said, “A key part of our Transforming Rail in Virginia program, the Western Rail Initiative will support critical infrastructure improvements necessary to modernize our transportation system and connect communities across the Commonwealth. This agreement is the result of collaboration among many partners, and we look forward to continuing this important work to enhance mobility in an equitable and environmentally sustainable way.”

In 2022, the plan will add a new round-trip train departing Washington, D.C., and heading to Roanoke; the train will pass through Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke. That complements the current Amtrak Northeast Corridor service which leaves Roanoke northbound in the morning and returns in the afternoon. By 2025, infrastructure improvements will extend the Northeast corridor round trips to Christiansburg.

According to the governor’s press release, forecasts suggest approximately 80,000 new passengers per year will be added to the 220,000 per year already using the Roanoke train.

The initiative includes $38.2 million to acquire 28.5 miles of track from Roanoke to Christiansburg. It also includes $219 million in infrastructure improvements along the corridor from Washington to Christiansburg.

“I’m dedicated to seeing this project through its completion and making sure that the New River Valley becomes a leader in innovating transportation infrastructure in the region today and into the future,” Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Montgomery) said in the press release.

“Laying the tracks for new jobs and economic opportunities while also reducing congestion on one of the busiest stretches of I-81 is one of my biggest priorities. With the help of dedicated partners in both local governments and nonprofit organizations, we finally see our hard work paying off.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network.  Email tips to [email protected]










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