Second passenger train to Norfolk will help ease highway congestion, increase multimodal options, and boost economic vitality for Virginia
RICHMOND – Hampton Roads citizens will soon have more options to avoid traffic and congestion in tunnels and on Interstates 64 and 95 with the Monday, March 4th, debut of a second Amtrak train service serving Norfolk, Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine announced last week.
“Rail plays a critical role in our multimodal transportation system, with an economic impact of $73 billion of output across the Commonwealth,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said. “The additional passenger rail service announced today will expand access, improve mobility, and create greater economic opportunity.”
There are 699 miles of rail in the Hampton Roads area, which provides $45.1 billion of output, or 27.7% of the district’s total output, and $1.2 billion in tax revenue, which comprises 22.2% of the district’s total tax revenue. The rail industry employs 212,484 people in the Hampton Roads district, generating $12.2 billion in income for this work force.
“The new service to Hampton Roads offers new travel options as well as schedule changes that will improve the performance for these trains, said Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. “None of this would be possible without our close and valued partnerships with Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Cities of Norfolk and Newport News.”
The second daily roundtrip train to Norfolk is scheduled to begin Monday, March 4, 2019. In addition to the current 6:10 AM daily departure, the second Norfolk train will depart weekdays around 9:00 A.M. Passenger rail service to and from Norfolk is part of Amtrak’s Northeast Regional train service connecting the Commonwealth to the northeast, offering customers a same-seat trip to and from 17 Virginia stations to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston and other destinations. Additional details regarding schedules and ticket sales are forthcoming.
“Amtrak service is a vital alternative in the Commonwealth’s overall transportation solution,” said Joe McHugh, Vice President, State-Supported Business Development for Amtrak. “DRPT and other partners work together to meet the increasing demand for passenger rail service and provide additional capacity.
The addition of service to Norfolk also comes with the announcement of the completion of major construction work at CSX’s Acca Yard in Richmond. The on-time, on-budget completion of the $132 million project decreases congestion for passenger and freight trains between Richmond’s Main Street and Staples Mill Stations, increasing reliability for both Amtrak and CSX customers across the entire Commonwealth.
As part of the Commonwealth’s investment in Acca Yard, CSX also granted additional capacity on its network between Richmond and Petersburg to allow for the additional Amtrak service to Norfolk. Details on the CSX Acca Yard project can be found here: https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/about-us/projects-and-partnerships/virginia-capacity-projects/
“CSX is pleased to work with the Commonwealth to complete this series of rail capacity projects on time and under budget,” said Anne Reinke, Vice President of Government Affairs for CSX. “Improving rail traffic flow in and around Richmond will benefit rail passengers and freight customers alike, and will better position the region to capture economic growth opportunities.”
Norfolk Southern was also a key partner in bringing the existing and new Norfolk passenger rail routes online. Inaugural Amtrak train service to Norfolk began in 2012 and marked the first passenger train out of the city since 1977. As part of the Commonwealth’s initial investment in Norfolk Southern’ s network between Petersburg and Norfolk, NS in turn granted additional capacity to allow for current and future Amtrak service to Norfolk.
The new Hampton Roads passenger rail service also includes optimized schedule changes to and from both Norfolk and Newport News stations. In addition to the second mid-morning departure and early-evening arrival to Norfolk, Newport News customers will also have the benefit of an early-morning departure and early-evening arrival, providing all Hampton Roads customers additional daily options to get Washington, D.C. and back. The optimized schedule also brings these new convenient options to Ettrick, Williamsburg, and Richmond’s Main Street and Staples Mill Stations. For more information on the new schedules, please go to: http://drpt.virginia.gov/media/2687/hr-optimization-1102019-w-weekends.pdf.
Officials with the cities of Norfolk and Newport News expressed strong support over the improved service to the Hampton Roads region.
“The expansion of the passenger rail will continue to optimize travel, for business and leisure, to and from Norfolk, and will assist with propelling the city and the region to prosperity,” said Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander.
“We are very excited about this additional Amtrak service to the region, and the revised schedules for the peninsula that will allow expanded day trips to Richmond and Washington. Along with our new multimodal transportation center, currently in the design phase, the improved passenger rail service will offer our residents more options and better facilities for travel in Virginia and the northeast,” said McKinley Price, Mayor, City of Newport News.
Last week’s announcement is the next chapter of Virginia’s enormously successful commitment to growing passenger rail services across the state. The Commonwealth’s initial investment in support of Amtrak began over a decade ago when it stepped up to save the Newport News service. Since then, four Governors from both parties have launched the nation’s most successful state-supported service to Lynchburg in 2009, brought one train to Norfolk in 2012, worked with the General Assembly to create the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund, and returned passenger rail to Roanoke in 2018.