Virginia Issues Draft 2022 Statewide Rail Plan

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
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The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has released a draft rail plan for public comment.

The 2022 Virginia Statewide Rail Plan, written in accordance with Federal Railroad Administration guidance, updates the previous plan, published in 2018. It was developed in coordination with the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and aligns with goals and objectives of VTrans, the commonwealth’s transportation plan, according to DRPT.

The new plan addresses rail in Virginia today and how it has changed since 2018 as well as the effect of Virginia’s rail investments since 2018; includes feedback from stakeholders and the public that shaped recommendations and future initiatives; introduces a policy framework to guide plan recommendations; recommends short-term and long-term passenger and freight rail projects; assesses the benefits of recommended rail projects; and identifies opportunities for rail transportation investment.

DRPT noted that since the last rail plan, the commonwealth has embarked on Transforming Rail in Virginia to separate freight and passenger rail in its busiest rail corridor and expand passenger rail services in western Virginia; this has resulted in the newly established Virginia Passenger Rail Authority taking ownership of more than 400 linear miles of rail right-of-way for passenger rail expansion, and an overall increase in planned rail investment of close to $2 billion.    

According to the draft rail plan, the commonwealth seeks to invest $5.8 billion in 93 freight rail and 81 passenger rail projects over the next 20 years. More than 80% of the total $5.3 billion in passenger rail investments are in the short-term (within the next six years), as part of the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative. These short-term improvements address the critical bottlenecks that are identified to affect both passenger and freight rail operations in the next few years, the plan reported. Total freight rail investment over the next 20 years will be $441 million, split almost evenly in the short- and long-term, with short-term improvements aimed at addressing critical bottlenecks that affect both passenger and freight rail operations, according to the plan.  

Among the passenger projects:

  • Alexandria Fourth Track will design and construct six miles of a fourth track and related infrastructure between Arlington and Alexandria.
  • Aquia Creek Third Track South (Siding E) will construct 2.3 miles of third track in Stafford County from the north end of Virginia Railway Express’s (VRE) Brooke Station to the existing Aquia Creek bridge.
  • Crossroads Third Track (Siding F) will construct about four miles of third track in Spotsylvania County.
  • Franconia to Lorton Third Track will add about six miles of main line third track from Franconia to Lorton, creating a continuous third track corridor between Alexandria and Lorton.
  • Franconia-Springfield Bypass, just south of Franconia-Springfield Station, is a rail bridge that will allow passenger trains to cross over to serve stations on the west side of the rail corridor and reduce congestion for freight and passenger trains. Construction includes a single track on the Bypass Bridge with accommodations for a future second track.
  • Hanover Third Track (Siding C) will construct about three miles of third track south of the South Anna River in Hanover County.
  • L’Enfant Fourth Track and Station Improvements will construct about one mile of additional main line track through and around VRE’s busiest station and improve platform access.
  • Long Bridge Project will construct a new two-track rail bridge next to the existing CSX-owned, 117-year-old, two-track rail bridge to create a four-track corridor.

Among the freight rail projects:

  • Capital investments by CSX on its network during 2021 totaled $1.8 billion and included maintenance and upgrading of existing track and bridges, adding new track capacity, and improvements to network and facility efficiency. Approximately $61.5 million of this investment was made in Virginia, and a $2 billion network investment is planned for 2022. Projects will generally include maintenance of the core network and infrastructure, PTC implementation, and locomotives and equipment.
  • Buckingham Branch (BBRR) operates across four divisions and 280 miles of track. Priority projects across the commonwealth include replacing ties; replacing jointed rail with welded rail; replacing/repairing bridges, tunnels and culverts; replacing turnouts; adding or replacing switches; implementing PTC systems; replacing 100lb rail with 132lb rail; and adding yard tracks to better serve commercial customers.
  • Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad Co., Inc. operates on 18 miles of track in Virginia and is prioritizing the following projects in the Hampton Roads region: replacing ties, replacing floor beams, replacing steel piles at the waterline, rehabbing drive mechanisms, replacing timber on fender system, surfacing on the main line, improvements to protect steel from deterioration due to brackish water, deck renewal, and capacity expansion through installing cover places and replacing steel stringer pairs.

Open for public comment until Oct. 27, the plan is due to be finalized in November.

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