Virginia’s Republican Governor announces new Amtrak service to Norfolk

Calls new train service “relief to road-weary travelers”

We have occasionally reported on continued expansion and progress on passenger rail routes in other states — far more than the well-known retreats in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida — including many with Republican Governors. Take this report from the National Association of RR Passengers in last Friday’s Hotline News:

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) joined officials from Amtrak to announce that passenger rail service will be extended to Norfolk, Virginia by the end of 2012—ten months earlier than scheduled.

“This service will provide immediate relief to road-weary travelers between two of the state’s most congested regions” said Governor McDonnell, referring to the Hampton Roads area (Norfolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton and surrounding towns) and northern Virginia’s Washington, DC suburbs. “This service is long overdue and I congratulate our partners and commend their cooperation in moving up the scheduled start date.”

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the City of Norfolk have been working in tandem to complete the essential infrastructure upgrades what will connect Norfolk to the Northeast Corridor. Inauguration of the service will reintroduce intercity passenger rail to the city, which has been without since 1977.

“There is high demand for passenger rail service in Virginia as demonstrated by considerable ridership growth throughout the Commonwealth,” said Amtrak Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Joe McHugh. “We have a strong partnership with the Commonwealth and look forward to operating this expanded service to Norfolk in 2012, providing passengers the option of convenient one-seat service to Washington and Northeast Corridor destinations.”

The project—which upgrades Norfolk Southern and CSX rails between the city of Norfolk and Richmond via Petersburg, where a new connection between the two lines is being built—will cost the Commonwealth around $101 million. In negotiating the service agreement, care was taken to ensure that freight traffic would not be adversely affected. The new train, initially one daily round-trip leaving Norfolk early in the morning and returning in the evening, will be in addition to the existing 2 daily round-trips between Boston and Newport News via an all-CSX route.

“We’re adding a track to allow passenger trains to run through [Norfolk Southern’s Portlock yard] without interfering with coal trains,” said Robin Chapman, a spokesman for Norfolk Southern Railway. “Construction will begin in late 2012 and will probably be complete in late 2013,” after the train begins operating.


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