• Amtrak in Virginia updates (and other transportation)

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by kitchin
  • A new daily train between RVM (Main St.) and Washington started in September. It is unique, so far, in originating/terminating in Richmond. The egregious 45 minute time between RVM and RVR (Staples Mill) went to 25 minutes sometime ago. Still not great. Eventually when a new bridge over the James River is built, all trains that stop in Richmond will stop at both stations. That 25 minutes should go down again.
  • Surveying is happening on the now state-owned Buckingham Branch (Doswell to Clifton Forge); S-Line (Petersburg to North Carolina); and portions of CSX (Washington to Richmond). Buckingham is long-term rail-banking Doswell to Orange County, and westward of there it is the Cardinal. The S-line is the formerly abandoned corridor in the 10-year plan for pax only, and future high speed. The CSX portions are in the 10-year plan for better service.
  • Christiansburg Amtrak service "as early as 2025."
  • Franconia-Springfield Bypass Project, for passenger trains, is out to bid. When this will happen for the Long Bridge into Washington, don't know.
  • State-sponsored commuter bus service started September 1 between Staunton and Charlottesville, under the brand of the Staunton area's transit service. Should/could be Buckingham Branch rail. Though like the state-sponsored Virginia Breeze, it favors highway-friendly stops, such as mall parking lots, as well as workplace destinations.
  • Carry-on bikes can now ride on the Northeast Regionals from Newport News and Norfolk.
  • Newport News's new station and track is about halfway done (still moving dirt). It's closer to the airport, but much further from downtown NN and Hampton. Clears up freight interference for CSX in a big way though.
  • The "lower" (northern) Shenandoah Valley abandoned rail is going to trail. No Amtrak at all in that fairly prosperous area.
  • Interesting heat map from DRPT. It's a freight analysis, but applies somewhat to pax rail too I think. Though you can see that while Charlottesville and Lynchburg have similar sized metro populations, and big colleges, the economies vis-a-vis this view of rail are vastly different. Charlottesville is the fourth busiest Amtrak station in the state, topped by Alexandria, Lorton Auto Train, and, way ahead, Staples Mill. Note Suffolk does not have an Amtrak stop, since the NE Regional is nonstop Norfolk to Petersburg (one of the smoothest rides on the NE Regional, by the way).
  by KTHW
Ready through the executive report on the DRPT website. It’s great to see that they are so far along replacing the two roadway bridges between Lorton and Woodbridge with two additional double track bridges.

It really seems like the state is doing a good job of planning infrastructure for 2 separate 2 track ROWs (DRPT and CSX)
  by kitchin
Sometimes I wonder why the Northeast Corridor is so rinky dink when Brightline is building dozens of bridges and tunnels in Florida, many on the shared freight line along the coast. Still, I'm glad Virginia and North Carolina are moving forward strongly. The NEC is a lot more heavily used than anything is Florida.

I'm keeping an eye on Brightline via this fellow's drone videos and narrations: https://twitter.com/roamingrailfan
  by R&DB
scratchyX1 wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:51 pm Shame on the abandonment in the valley, it could make for a freight bypass around DC.
Which Valley line is being abandoned? The one through Winchester or the one through Front Royal?
  by scratchyX1
R&DB wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 1:10 pm
scratchyX1 wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:51 pm Shame on the abandonment in the valley, it could make for a freight bypass around DC.
Which Valley line is being abandoned? The one through Winchester or the one through Front Royal?
The former b&o near front royal
  by dgvrengineer
scratchyX1 wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 5:35 pm
R&DB wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 1:10 pm
scratchyX1 wrote: Fri Oct 01, 2021 12:51 pm Shame on the abandonment in the valley, it could make for a freight bypass around DC.
Which Valley line is being abandoned? The one through Winchester or the one through Front Royal?
The former b&o near front royal
It's not the B & O. It's the old Manassas Gap RR/Southern Railway from Riverton Jct to Broadway. There are two competing factions. The trail group which is begging for public money for a study and a private group that wants to preserve and improve the railroad. The trail group is better organized and has the support of several towns and Shenandoah County through which most of the line travels. The rail group has a big uphill battle to preserve the rail line. The line has not had rail service in at least 10 years although there are customers on the line. NS shut it down and told them to go fish! BTW: the B & O did have trackage rights over this line from Strasburg Jct to Harrisonburg when their track continued to Lexingtron, VA. After the track from Staunton to Lexington was torn up the B & O sold the Harrisonburg to Staunton track to the Chesapeake Western and gave up the trackage rights.
  by R&DB
So Front Royal through Strasburg and most of the Valley going South. The only reedming part of this is the Luray Valley trackage is superior.
  by scratchyX1
I though b and o built the Valley railroad, in an attempt to reach Southern markets, then sold it off in the 40s.
Wasn't Showaters Allegany central gear stored on this stretch for a period?
  by dgvrengineer
Showalter had a storage and repair facility in Staunton on the old C&O. This area is now the headquarters of the Buckingham Branch RR. The B&O built from Brunswick, MD on the main line to Winchester and south to Strasburg Jct. Rather than built a parallel line to the Manassas Gap they reached an agreement for trackage rights to Harrisonburg where they continued to built south. The line was graded to Roanoke but only built to Lexington. I81 now occupies much of the old grade from just south of Staunton to just north of the Lexington exit. The Shenandoah Valley RR operates the line from Staunton to just south of Harrisonburg. NS operates from just south of Harrisonburg to Broadway. CSX continues to operate from Strasburg Jct to Brunswick with a feed mill located right at the junction.
  by scratchyX1
And the Lexington line is where that large arch bridge on the side of i81 is, and was used to the 40s, right ?
  by dgvrengineer
scratchyX1 wrote: Tue Oct 05, 2021 12:04 pm And the Lexington line is where that large arch bridge on the side of i81 is, and was used to the 40s, right ?
Yes, that is where the line comes into I-81 from downtown Staunton, and yes it was used into the 40's. The rail was removed sometime during WWII for scrap for the war.
  by kitchin
SRich wrote: Tue Oct 05, 2021 2:27 pm Will the new (double) track be electrified, maybe one double stack height?
I don't think there is any electric heavy rail in Virginia, aside from Metro, nor plans for it. Electrification is not in the approved plans for Southeast High Speed Rail.

Richmond - Raleigh, NC, is likely to be the first segment of SEHSR, maybe starting construction within ten years. Maybe second in line for upgrade work is Raleigh - Charlotte. The segment of SEHSR from Charlotte to Atlanta is the wild card. Will Georgia's split politics to lead to anything? Will Georgia elect pro-Amtrak politicians? If not, would Congress shove money that way to get them on board? Would Georgia go out of bounds and look for a Brightline private railroad? In other words, more like North Carolina, Alabama, or Florida?

As an example of Congress shoving money in paradoxical directions, a major academic physics facility went to Florida State University instead of an MIT-Harvard-etc. coalition in Boston.

The politics of Amtrak can be odd. Somewhat conservative states can support it with local funds, but in the last decade or two more conservative states have rejected helping to fund it.

In Virginia, there's an election in November. While NC and VA spend big buckets of money on rail, it's still not enough to fund truly high speed rail. In Virginia at least, vast sums have gone to private railroads to keep them happy and improve mixed pax-freight lines. Now that the state has bought a few hundred miles of rail, that should change, and there will be pax-only trackage.

North Carolina has owned Raleigh - Charlotte since the mid-1800's, but private railroad has rights and that corridor will remain mixed pax-freight even with SEHSR I believe.

Station issues in Virginia:

* Newport News: out to the burbs next year, as a hack transit center with local bus service to the more-or-less nearby airport. Airports without bus service are a pet peeve of mine, not to mention without rail. The airport currently has no bus or rail service. Downtown NN and Hampton are about nine miles away, and no rail to them is planned. With the Amtrak station relocated, CSX gets an open freight line approaching its big port. Also, there's a history in NN of federal support to the private shipyard, with its 25,000 employees. For now that does not include rail. The first federal housing construction program in the U.S. was a public-private project for white-color workers at NN Shipbuilding, in 1918. It's still a valuable neighborhood, on the James River, called Hilton Village. (The Second World War sequel to this program was a much bigger one that funded Fred Trump, in NY and Norfolk.) The city is negotiating with a residential developer that owns a big parcel nearby, along the CSX mainline, the part that will be freight-only after next year.

* Norfolk: got the SEHSR prequel improvements instead of Newport News / Hampton. The station is downtown-adjacent and across a parking lot from the light-rail line. In actual downtown Norfolk, there's a fifteen minute ferry to Portsmouth, run by the regional transit agency. Extending the light rail to Virginia Beach, the most most populous city* in the state, with the tallest building, is still faintly possible. Amtrak runs a bus. (*Two-fifths the population of Fairfax County, though.)

* Christiansburg / Blacksburg: the station when service starts will be a bit closer to Virginia Tech than originally planned. And the Amtrak segment to Roanoke will be pax-only. The trip from VT to its partner Amazon HQ2 at Crystal city will be a shuttle to Amtrak, to Alexandria and a three-minute walk overhead to Metro rail. The Metro station has been improved.

* Petersburg / Ettrick: some improvements to the station. It's not downtown, but it's near Virginia State University, an HBCU (historically black college/university).

* Ashland: not good. Pretty location though.

* Charlottesville: not well integrated to local or intercity buses. I wonder how much will be spent (some time after the current ten-year plan), on the state-owned part of Buckingham Branch (originally formed by CSX to slurp up short line subsidies), versus what it would cost to build a new rail corridor down I-64.

* Staunton: downtown-adjacent station. This city has done a good job drawing local, national and international talent and tourism with its resident Shakespeare theater and other projects. Helps to be on both I-64 and I-81. The Barter Theater in Abingdon once and maybe now has a similar national profile, but it's much further out on I-81 from places like D.C., and prospects for rail are dire.

* Williamsburg: central location, decent station, connected to local transit (except horse-drawn carriage). The college is eclipsing the historic village in popularity, and surely drives a lot of rail trips. Historic keeps raising its ticket prices, but such places have been a tough draw the last two decades, even marquee spots like Monticello. The big amusement park (owned by a beer company), and a separate kid-friendly all-inclusive lodge outside Billyburg do well I think, but probably don't drive much rail travel.

* Roanoke: downtown station. Amtrak reportedly exceeded expectations here and in Lynchburg.
  by scratchyX1
Newport News is such sprawl that station location doesn't matter too much.
Local transit connectivity, is not as good as Williamsburg.
I think I commented elsewhere that the two trackside theme parks should have stations of their own, and direct pedestrian connections to them.
Iirc, Charlottesville, while compact, has 4 disconnected bus stations, instead of one unified transportation center.

Virginia Beach isn't worth the cost of extending light rail, it's one hurricane away from oblivion.
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