Northam announces deal to expand rail in southwest Virginia

May 5, 2021 GMT

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) — Virginia and Norfolk Southern Railway have reached a $257 million agreement to bring new passenger rail service to part of southwest Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday.

The deal that includes infrastructure improvements and right-of-way and track acquisitions will increase existing service to Roanoke, the governor’s office said. It will also newly expand it to Christiansburg, which neighbors Blacksburg, home to Virginia Tech.

That means service will be returning to the New River Valley, the area southwest of Roanoke, for the first time since 1979.

“Bringing passenger rail service back to the New River Valley will fuel tourism, drive economic growth, and create new opportunities for the region’s 180,000 residents and 40,000 college students,” the governor said in a statement.

The announcement comes amid an ongoing push by the Northam administration to expand and improve passenger, commuter and freight rail.


Under the agreement and starting next year, an additional round-trip train to Roanoke will depart Washington, D.C., in the morning and serve Alexandria, Burke, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville, Lynchburg, and Roanoke, according to a news release. That train will complement an existing one that travels northbound from Roanoke in the morning and returns in the afternoon.

The two round trips will then be extended from Roanoke to Christiansburg upon completion of the infrastructure improvements in 2025.

Part of the agreement also involves studying the possibility of adding a stop in Bedford, subject to future funding, and assessing the cost of extending passenger rail to Bristol, in the state’s far southwest.