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Virginia Rail Agency to Unveil Draft Edition of Statewide Rail Plan

ProgressiveRailroading.com

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) will present a draft statewide rail plan during five public meetings to be held around the commonwealth this month.

Hosted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the meetings also will enable DRPT officials to obtain feedback on the plan, which outlines proposed freight- and passenger-rail projects. An update to DRPT's 2004 statewide rail plan, the 2008 version reviews the current state of the commonwealth's rail system and challenges facing the system, such as increasing demand for freight and passenger service, population growth and capacity constraints.

Projects identified in the plan — which represent $4.9 billion in potential investments — involve Class Is, short lines, passenger railroads, the Port of Hampton Roads and a high-speed rail initiative. Class I projects include CSX Transportation's National Gateway Corridor, which would parallel Interstate 95 through Virginia; and Norfolk Southern Corp.'s Crescent Corridor along I-81, Heartland Corridor along U.S. Route 460 and Coal Corridor along Route 460.

Estimated to cost $68 million, proposed short-line projects would bring all of the commonwealth's short-line rail systems up to federal freight and passenger standards, boost small railroads' capacity, and improve Amtrak service between Orange and Clifton Forge. Estimated to cost $178.9 million, port projects include an expansion of the Norfolk International Terminal's central rail yard, construction of the Craney Island rail connection and improvements to the Norfolk Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad.

Passenger-rail projects — which would total $1.7 billion — include commuter-rail improvements on Virginia Railway Express between Alexandria and Manassas, Manassas and Gainesville/Haymarket, and Fredericksburg and Washington, D.C.; and intercity rail initiatives Urban Crescent Express and TransDominion Express. Finally, the proposed $1.2 billion Southeast High-Speed Rail Project calls for establishing high-speed service between Washington and Raleigh, N.C., including a connection between Hampton Roads and Richmond, Va.

DRPT will accept public comments and responses to surveys on the plan until Aug. 25. The agency expects to release a rail action plan in September.