The last of three Amtrak Virginia trains that were suspended due to the pandemic is open again, with a new extension to the Main Street Station in downtown Richmond. Governor Ralph Northam and rail officials announced the reopening and expansion of Northeast Regional Route 51 as part of Northam’s Transforming Rail in Virginia program. Northam held his press conference as the first train departed Main Street Station at 5:35 a.m. Monday.
“If you’ve ever been stuck on I-95, you know we can’t pave our way out of congestion,” Northam said. “This new train offers quick, reliable service from the Commonwealth’s capital to Washington, D.C., connecting our two cities and making it easier for thousands of Virginians to get to work in the morning. Virginia is leading the nation in expanded access to high-performance rail—and I look forward to many more milestones ahead.“
Northam’s announcement highlights two morning departure times, with the earliest arriving in D.C. at 8:22 a.m. and in New York, New York at 12:12 p.m. Afternoon trains departing D.C. for Richmond are scheduled for 3:50 p.m. and 7:10 p.m.
During the pandemic, service to Norfolk, Newport News, and Richmond was suspended. Richmond service was the last to be restored; prior to the pandemic the service only went to the Staples Mill Station on the northern side of Richmond, according to Department of Rail and Public Transportation spokesperson Haley Glynn. The Main Street Station is much closer to the Virginia Capitol and downtown business and tourism districts.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, service to and from Richmond’s Staples Mill Station was suspended in March 2020,” Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler said in the announcement. “Today’s resumption of this service, which includes the extension to Main Street Station, marks the return to pre-pandemic service levels in Virginia.”
Glynn said the service is targeted at business commuters to D.C., leisure travelers to New York, and Richmond visitors. On Monday, the Amtrak site listed tickets for a Tuesday Richmond-to-D.C. round trip at $76 dollars, although prices further in advance may be cheaper. For a 2010 Toyota Camry, that trip would cost about $22 in gas, according to gasbuddy.com.
“Originating more trains from Main Street Station will connect our vibrant capital city to Washington D.C. and population centers along the East Coast,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in Northam’s press release. “This extension will bring trains closer to where people live and work, expanding access and economic opportunity.”
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