$257M Western Rail Initiative to bring NRV train service
Norfolk Southern deal expands service in Roanoke, Christiansburg
Passenger train service will return to the New River Valley for the first time since 1979, Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday, announcing an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway.
The $257.2 million deal is an addition to the $3.7 billion rail expansion package the governor hailed in March as part of the Transforming Rail in Virginia program.
The agreement, called the Western Rail Initiative, extends service to the New River Valley, an area that includes the city of Radford and the counties of Floyd, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski.
It also increases intercity passenger rail service between Roanoke and the Northeast Corridor, according to the announcement, complementing Amtrak’s service in the area.
The governor’s office said the new service will add approximately 80,000 passengers in the first year, citing ridership predictions. The Roanoke train currently provides 220,000 passenger trips per year.
The initiative includes $219 million in infrastructure investments, including improvements to Roanoke Yard and the Route 29/Interstate 81 corridor, and $38.2 million for the acquisition of 28.5 miles of track on the Virginian Line between Salem Crossovers to Merrimac. Legal agreements between Norfolk Southern and the state are expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“Bringing passenger rail service back to the New River Valley will fuel tourism, drive economic growth and create new opportunities for the region’s 180,000 residents and 40,000 college students,” Northam said in a statement.
An additional round-trip train from D.C. to Roanoke will be added in 2022, serving Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Roanoke, according to the announcement. Infrastructure improvements are planned to be complete in 2025 to allow for the Northeast Corridor round trips to be extended from Roanoke to Christiansburg. The state also plans to work with the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority to fund construction of a station building and parking.