Monday, December 20, 2010

Virginia, NS reach rail passenger pact

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday announced that the state and Norfolk Southern have signed an agreement presaging the return of daily intercity passenger rail service to Norfolk, Va., for the first time since 1977, using part of NS' Heartland Corridor between Petersburg and Norfolk. Amtrak service to Virginia’s Tidewater region currently terminates in Newport News, on the north side of the James River, using CSX right-of-way. 

virginia_state_seal.jpgSaid McDonnell, “Service will bring direct intercity passenger rail service to one of Virginia’s largest population centers. The Hampton Roads region is home to over a million Virginians, including thousands of Federal employees and military personnel, who currently have limited transportation choices for travel to Richmond, Washington, D.C., and into the Northeast. This service will provide an alternative to the heavily congested I-64 and I-95 corridors.”

The Virginia/NS pact will allow upgrading of NS right-of-way between Norfolk and Petersburg so that it can handle Amtrak trains. Funded by an $87 million Rail Enhancement Fund grant, the projects include upgraded signaling, track extensions and connections, passenger train turning and servicing facilities, and a track and platform near Norfolk’s Harbor Park.

Also included is construction of a new connection between Norfolk Southern and CSXT tracks near Petersburg.ns_logo.jpg 
These improvements will enable passenger trains to run on Norfolk Southern’s busy Heartland Corridor route. The Heartland Corridor opened to handle double-stacked container trains last August, providing a more direct route between Norfolk and the Midwest.

“The partnership between the Commonwealth and Norfolk Southern is a perfect example of business and government working creatively, cooperatively, and quickly to meet a challenge,” said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman. “We are proud to be part of a timely and forward-looking response to a pressing public issue.”

va._dept._of_rail-public_transport.jpg“Connecting Norfolk to the Amtrak network and the Northeast is a major step forward for the mobility of the region,” said Thelma Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. 

Norfolk Southern will work with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to complete the work outlined in the agreement. The project is already being designed, and construction will begin in 2011.