The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) and Norfolk Southern Corporation announced the financial closing of the Western Rail Initiative Agreement which will expand passenger rail service from Washington, DC to Roanoke, Va. and to the New River Valley.
The first step in the expansion is the addition of a second Commonwealth-supported roundtrip train between Roanoke and Washington, DC which will launch on July 11, 2022. This roundtrip further connects Virginia’s Blue Ridge with Northern Virginia and points along the Northeast Corridor including New York and Boston. The agreement also includes the future extension of the Roanoke service to the New River Valley with the construction of a new station as well as track and signal improvements.
With this agreement the Commonwealth, will acquire approximately 28 miles of Norfolk Southern-owned “V-line” right-of-way including existing tracks from Christiansburg to the Salem Crossovers plus the passenger easement between Salem Crossovers and the Roanoke station platform. The Commonwealth’s plans also include rail infrastructure improvements between Manassas and the New River Valley for more frequent and reliable service.
The extension of passenger rail to Virginia’s Blue Ridge began in 2009 with service to Lynchburg which saw ridership triple what had been predicted in just its first year. In 2017 the service was extended to Roanoke and ridership continued to grow with more than 220,000 passengers traveling in FFY2019 (pre-pandemic). In April and May of 2022 ridership on the Roanoke Route surpassed the record ridership of the same months in 2019.
The new Washington, DC to Roanoke roundtrip will make stops at Alexandria, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. The agreement also calls for a potential future station at Bedford. The new service is expected to add approximately 80,000 passengers in the first year once it is extended into the New River Valley.
-via Press Release