Home Federal infrastructure law to fund expansion of two rail corridors in Virginia

Federal infrastructure law to fund expansion of two rail corridors in Virginia

Rebecca Barnabi
The Virginia Scenic Railway is owned and operated by the Buckingham Branch Railroad. Photos by Kate Simon.

In 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established the Corridor Identification and Development Program to create a pipeline of projects to advance passenger rail expansion in the United States.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has selected two passenger rail corridors in Virginia to participate in the program that will guide the development of new intercity passenger rail services.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) submitted applications for acceptance into the federal program for the east-to-west Commonwealth Corridor and the corridor between Washington, D.C. and Bristol.

The program encompasses pre-construction development of selected corridors, which may include planning, environmental review, preliminary engineering and other corridor development activities. With this designation, the Commonwealth will work with the FRA to determine service development plan activities to be funded through the program’s $500,000 initial grant award as well as continue coordination with Tennessee to explore opportunities for connections with its developing passenger rail corridors.

The inclusion of the two corridors into the program will help Virginia advance its goal of establishing an east-to-west passenger rail corridor and expand and extend service to communities through Southwest Virginia, including Bristol, and beyond to our neighboring state of Tennessee.

“Virginia is a leader in passenger rail and is delivering on its vision of connecting communities and increasing economic prosperity by providing increased passenger rail service,” DRPT Director Jennifer DeBruhl said. “The Corridor ID Program will help Virginians reach more small towns and big cities with passenger train service.” 

The Commonwealth Corridor will be an east-west, cross-state passenger rail corridor in Virginia that will connect the Hampton Roads region with the Richmond region, Charlottesville, New River Valley and Southwest Virginia. With existing state-sponsored passenger rail service that connects Hampton Roads to the Richmond and Petersburg area, plans include filling the gap in passenger rail service between Richmond and Charlottesville along the freight route operated by Buckingham Branch Railroad. The intent is to eventually provide east-west service across Virginia in a single seat. The Commonwealth has laid the groundwork for service along this corridor with the acquisition of track and capital improvements. DRPT conducted a study of the corridor and estimated that it will have an annual ridership of 177,200 passengers.

The Western Corridor will encompass existing state-sponsored passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Roanoke, planned expansion to the New River Valley region, and future expansion to and through Bristol, Virginia. DRPT conducted a study of potential service to Bristol in 2021 and has been working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation on a potential end point beyond Bristol for the corridor.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.