For years, state and local officials have talked about bringing passenger rail service to the New River Valley. And, plans are now in motion to make that a reality.
Those discussions have been ongoing for more than a decade. But bringing passenger rail to the NRV made even more sense after Amtrak decided to bring service back to Roanoke a few years ago.
Shannon Valentine is Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation.
“With this route, the one that started in Lynchburg and extended to Roanoke in 2017 – today has the highest ridership of any train in Virginia and is consistently one of the most profitable in the United States,” Valentine explained.
Because of that, state and local officials knew an expansion into the New River Valley was needed.
Part of the problem has been that one of the major railroad companies in the area – Norfolk Southern – focuses mostly on freight rail and not passenger service.
At Wednesday’s windy press conference, Governor Ralph Northam said the planned Long Bridge expansion in northern Virginia helped pave the way for Norfolk Southern to come on board with the idea.
“And that will provide more tracks and the availability for more trains – both freight and passenger rail – to come to the rest of the Commonwealth,” the governor said.
The state is investing nearly $270 million for the project. The first step is a second round-trip train from D.C. to Roanoke that will be operational next year. The line is then expected to extend to Christiansburg in 2025.
On Wednesday, Northam also signed legislation creating the NRV Passenger Rail Station Authority. That entity will help the state in creating and supporting passenger rail service in the region.