$58 million grant to improve rail corridor between Richmond and Raleigh

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) were recently awarded a $58 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in support of the states’ Raleigh to Richmond (R2R) Corridor Infrastructure Engineering & Safety Program.

The R2R program is a joint venture between VPRA and NCDOT to improve the rail corridor between Raleigh and Richmond to support additional service frequencies and reduce travel times between the two cities by more than an hour. To do this, portions of the S-line, a railroad section that provides a vital link between the two cities, must be updated through infrastructure rehabilitation and construction. The grant is a vital step in this process.

As a part of the Federal Rail Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants program, the $58 million grant will fund preliminary planning and engineering design for the approximately 162 miles of the S-Line between Raleigh and Richmond.

“This is an exciting and historic collaboration between the Commonwealth of Virginia and North Carolina, solidifying a critical link in the Southeast Rail Corridor. USDOT’s investment is an incredible first step to connecting our capital cities to each other and to the rest of the East Coast,” said Governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin.

“This grant brings us one step closer to providing trains from Richmond to Raleigh that are competitive with the time that it takes to make the drive down I-85 and I-95,” said W. Sheppard Miller III, Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “This is a game-changing project that Virginia has already shown its commitment to through the purchase of 75 miles of the S-line from CSX.
“The benefits of this project will be felt across other parts of the Commonwealth as well with the improvements creating access for Norfolk trains directly into Main Street Station in Richmond, allowing for one-seat rides from downtown Norfolk to downtown Richmond on three roundtrips a day. This summer, the third Norfolk train will come into service, as well as a second train to Roanoke. The station enhancements at the Ettrick Station in Petersburg will create a more welcoming environment for increased trains and passengers using that station along the R2R corridor. This is big news as we advance the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiatives.”

“This historic funding is a critical development in our partnership with Virginia and North Carolina to upgrade infrastructure and expand passenger rail. Establishing an intercity corridor between Raleigh and Richmond will generate opportunities for fast, frequent, reliable, and equitable train service,” Amtrak Vice President Ray Lang said. “We will continue working with our partners to expand passenger rail that will provide more service to more passengers, relieve congestion, protect the environment, and enhance mobility.”

“This funding is a vital step in the development of the Southeast Corridor,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of VPRA. “Providing safe, reliable, and convenient rail service between Richmond and Raleigh, for passengers and freight, will benefit both states through economic development, job growth, and increased transportation alternatives.”

In preparation for the service, the Commonwealth of Virginia purchased 75 miles of the S-line between Petersburg, VA, and Ridgeway, NC, from CSX Transportation (CSXT) in 2020 as part of its Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative. Through this initiative, the Commonwealth is investing $3.7 billion to improve and increase rail service throughout the state to provide alternatives for moving people and goods through Virginia. This agreement also gave NCDOT the ability to purchase the section of the S-Line between Raleigh and Ridgeway.

VPRA is working throughout the Commonwealth to expand the rail options available to Virginians. Currently the state supports Amtrak service to Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, and Newport News. Ridership on these services was up 26.7 percent in April, compared to March with a total of 70,433 passengers traveling. Ridership on the Roanoke and Norfolk routes exceeded April 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels.

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