Virginia Passenger Rail Authority
|Rich Dalton, Acting CEO|
A new legal entity, with the power to transform rail travel in the commonwealth, quietly came into existence on July 1. The new Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) will, once fully operational, own, manage and expand rail infrastructure for the public good and benefit of businesses across the region.
Established by the General Assembly earlier this year, the VPRA will function much like Virginia’s Commercial Space Flight, Port and Airport authorities, which operate under the auspices of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. VPRA’s status as an authority affords it some degree of independence, allowing it to craft long-term plans and maximize rail investments. Northern Virginia will have significant representation. The 15-member governing board includes the Virginia Railway Express’ (VRE) CEO, as an ex-officio member, and six individuals, three a piece, who reside within the jurisdictions represented by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission.
Creation of the VPRA benefits VRE in several ways. In short order – once an agreement between Virginia and CSX Transportation is finalized – VPRA will acquire and manage a substantial amount of track in the I-95 corridor, between Richmond and the Potomac River. The change in track ownership will allow VRE to add an additional round-trip train on both the Fredericksburg and Manassas lines, perhaps as soon as 2021.
Over the next 10 years, the VPRA will oversee construction of an additional 37 miles of track in the corridor – including a bypass at Franconia-Springfield and a second rail bridge over the Potomac, primarily for passenger trains, that will connect Arlington and Washington, D.C. The separation of freight and passenger trains will go a long way toward alleviating congestion. As a result, VRE will be able to run more trains with greater reliability. Additional service could be phased in beginning in 2026, as infrastructure improvements are completed.
The prospect of improved and expanded passenger rail service in the region is exciting. VRE looks forward to working with members of the VPRA board and staff to leverage the commonwealth’s investment in rail to better serve our current and future passengers and support economic growth in the region. Look for additional details via VRE Train Talks, RIDE magazine and vre.org as we move through the remainder of 2020.