RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Corridor, which will connect the Hampton Roads region with the Richmond region and beyond, is among two corridors selected by the Federal Railroad Administration to participate in its new program that will guide the development of new intercity passenger rail services.
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) made the announcement Friday.
“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.”
DRPT said it submitted applications for acceptance into the federal Corridor Identification and Development Program for the east-to-west Commonwealth Corridor and the corridor between Washington, D.C., and Bristol.
The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established the Corridor Identification and Development Program in 2021 to create a pipeline of projects to advance passenger rail expansion, DRPT explained. The program encompasses pre-construction development of selected corridors, which may include planning, environmental review, preliminary engineering, and other corridor development activities.
With the designation, DRPT said the Commonwealth can work with the Federal Railroad Administration (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.
DRPT noted the inclusion of the two corridors 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 Tennessee.
According to DRPT, 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.
It will include the existing passenger rail service that connects Hampton Roads to the Richmond and Petersburg area, and plans to fill the gap in passenger rail service between Richmond and Charlottesville along the freight route operated by Buckingham Branch Railroad. The goal is to provide east-west service across Virginia in a single seat, it said.
DRPT noted the Commonwealth has already laid the groundwork for service along this corridor with the acquisition of track and capital improvements. A DRPT-conducted study estimated that it will have an annual ridership of 177,200 passengers.
Meanwhile, the western corridor will include existing passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Roanoke, with planned expansion to the New River Valley region, and future expansion to and through Bristol, Virginia.
DRPT said it conducted a study of potential service to Bristol in 2021 and has been working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation on a potential endpoint beyond Bristol for the corridor.