Monday, January 03, 2011

Virginia: Amtrak to Norfolk an added service

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Virginia’s plans to expand Amtrak passenger rail service to Norfolk, Va., will be pursued without sacrificing Amtrak’s current route through the state’s Tidewater region, which terminates at Newport News, on the north side of the James River.

“The service is in addition to the existing Amtrak service from Newport News,” and not instead of such service, according to Courtney L. Ware, manager of policy and communication for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

“Hampton Roads is one of Virginia's largest population centers, and Norfolk currently does not have direct intercity passenger rail service,” Ware told Railway Age. “The region is projected to experience significant growth in coming years, so we must increase transportation choices to and from Hampton Roads.”

Virginia announced an agreement Dec. 20 with Norfolk Southern to use part of NS’ Heartland Corridor between Petersburg and Norfolk, including the upgrading of NS right-of-way on that stretch to 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.