This past July, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority began running a second Amtrak service between Roanoke and D.C.’s Union Station. This additional train had been planned for many years, but it took negotiations with Norfolk Southern to make it work.
“We negotiated a second train on that route because ridership in 2019 actually hit record highs on that route, one of the best routes in the county in terms of a cost benefit analysis so we added a second train starting July 11,” said Michael McLaughlin is the chief operating officer of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority.
Some of the funding for the second train came from a larger initiative to address safety and congestion on the Interstate 81 corridor. This alternative to driving will extend to the New River Valley in a few years time.
“We have to do some infrastructure improvements though to get there, and we’re planning on getting there in 2026,” McLaughlin said.
The improvements include double-tracking seven miles of rail between Manassas and Culpeper, and improvements at the Roanoke rail yard to allow the passenger train to get through to Christiansburg.
“We’re also making improvements to something called the Virginia line,” McLaughlin said. “We purchased 28 miles of track from Salem to New River Valley on a secondary line Norfolk Southern owns.”
McLaughlin said the New River Valley station will be near the shopping mall in Christiansburg. A new route to the mall will need to be secured.
“So that will be an adventure to us to get the Virginia line down to the mall, but it’s the best place for the station to be,” McLaughlin said. “There’s currently transit at the mall and there’s the Huckleberry Trail which is a very popular trail, there’s always people on the trail that connects Blacksburg and Christiansburg.”
McLaughlin made his comments at this Tuesday’s meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
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