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$100 million heads to Virginia passenger rail project

An Amtrak passenger train at the Roanoke station.
David Seidel
Radio IQ
An Amtrak passenger train at the Roanoke station.

The head of Virginia’s Passenger Rail Authority said Monday that passenger train ridership is at its highest levels ever, all while praising new funds for rail projects in the Commonwealth’s D.C. suburbs.

In a statement Virginia’s Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine praised the $100 million as a way to increase the capacity for passenger rail in the Commonwealth, as well as address congestion issues on local highways. That’s something the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director, D.J. Stadtler, sympathizes with as well.

“It’s really going to make a difference across the state for how people move. - all of us have been in traffic on 81, 64, and 95,” Stadtler said. “This is going to give folks another opportunity to get where they want to go without sitting bumper to bumper.”

Stadtler said the $100 million will go toward the Franconia-Springfield Bypass, a project that will build bridges through the Northern Virginia suburb and allow for freight and passenger trains to better share the track system. Stadtler said the timing of the funding would help keep the state authority on track to meet its 2030 rail expansion deadline.

Another project, a new bridge between Virginia and DC, is also expected to make some progress thanks to funding grants issued earlier this year. Both projects, considered part of the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, are heavily subsidized by the infrastructure bill passed by congress and signed by President Joe Biden, a well-known fan of passenger rail, in 2021.

Stadtler added the projects are expected to also expand more easily than highways as transportation needs in the state grow.

“We have more folks riding now by far than we did pre-covid so when we get to the point these trains are full, we don’t have to add another train per se, we can just add more cars to the train,” he said.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.