A New Day for Rail Public Policy in Virginia!


On December 19, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam announced a ten-year program of rail initiatives and investments that will transform passenger, commuter, and freight rail in Virginia. Hailed as "game changing," "landmark," and "transformative," the $3.7 billion program includes rail infrastructure acquisitions, construction, and improvements that will result in significant growth in passenger rail and an improved operating environment for rail freight.

Learn more about these rail initiatives.  

Program Highlights with map.

Future Regional Passenger Service Plan resulting from these initiatives.

Future Commuter (VRE) Service Plan resulting from these initiatives.  


 

The Governor’s rail program includes the following innovations in public rail policy: 

  • Recognition of rail as a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative to adding highway lanes to manage congestion.
  • A visionary plan with ambitious, long-range goals for passenger, commuter, and freight rail.   
  • A series of state-initiated capital projects for reducing congestion through enhanced rail.   
  • Debt financing for high-cost projects (Long Bridge replacement).   
  • Public ownership and operation of strategic rail infrastructure for passenger projects.    
  • Acquisition of freight rail lines for congestion-mitigating passenger projects (Agreements with CSX and Buckingham Branch RRs).  
  • Joint operating agreements on rail rights-of-way with host railroads.
  • Separating freight and passenger rail with dedicated passenger right-of-way on some routes.
  • A Passenger Rail Fund within the transportation trust fund that, for the first time in Virginia history, integrates rail within the biannual transportation budget and gives rail access to fuel taxes and other revenue sources.
  • A Virginia Passenger Rail Authority to oversee the development and operation of Virginia’s regional and high-speed passenger program.

 


Omnibus Transportation Bill provides for funding and implementation of the program 

In short order, the General Assembly passed an Omnibus Transportation Bill that transforms the way Virginia finances its rail program, adds significant new funding for rail, and establishes a Passenger Rail Authority to oversee the expansion and operation of state-funded intercity passenger rail.

Through this historic combination of rail initiatives and supporting legislation, the Northam Administration took the lead on a host of rail public policy innovations that signal a radical new approach to developing rail in the Commonwealth.  

 


 

VRPI'S IMPACT ON RAIL POLICY

 


VRPI Directors and Fellows should recognize these policy innovations, which correspond in every particular to revisions in rail policy we've advocated for years. The value of independent thought and analysis on rail policy cannot be overstated. Since its founding in 2002, VRPI has been a source of both challenges to the status quo and the dissemination of positive alternatives to existing policies, and we believe our work has had an impact!  

The past two years have been active and productive ones for VRPI. We've sponsored public programs, disseminated articles, presentations and reports, and maintained a positive dialogue with Virginia policy makers. We invite you to read our Biennial Report of VRPI Activities and Publications on this website. Every item represents a positive contribution to the public dialogue on Virginia rail policy.