CSX and Virginia to create separate freight and passenger rail routes

A photograph of a locomotive hauling railcars in a grassy field.

CSX (NYSE: CSX) and state partners in Virginia have agreed to create separate routes for passenger rail and freight rail south of Washington, D.C. and into Virginia.

The $3.7 billion investment includes building a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River. The new bridge, which will be owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia, will serve passenger and commuter rail exclusively, while the existing bridge will still be used by CSX.  

CSX owns the existing bridge, which was built in 1904 and is at 98% capacity during peak times.

As part of the deal, Virginia will also acquire more than 350 miles of railroad right-of-way and 225 miles of track, as well as 37 miles of new track improvements, including a Franconia-Springfield bypass, the parties said on Dec. 19.

Virginia will pay $525 million to CSX over the next three years to acquire the property and track.  Federal, state and local sources, as well as regional sources, will fund the remainder of the project.

Both parties are working to finalize the definitive agreements, with execution planned in the second half of 2020, they said.

CSX said there would be no immediate impacts to freight as the project proceeds. But once the phases are complete, the separation of freight operations from passenger operations will allow for better fluidity through the corridor.

“CSX is proud of the innovative agreement reached with the Commonwealth of Virginia which will advance our goals for increased safety, efficiency and volume growth while meeting the public’s desire for more passenger rail service to relieve commuter traffic congestion in the I-95 corridor,” CSX CEO Jim Foote said.

Meanwhile, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said the investment is to improve upon and expand passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Richmond, Virginia. Northam also said the overall project will remove five million cars and one million trucks from Virginia highways annually, and help the Port of Virginia reach its goal of moving 40% of containers by rail. 

Over the next 10 years, Virginia is seeking to:

  • Double the number of Virginia Amtrak trains.
  • Provide nearly hourly Amtrak service between Richmond and Washington, D.C.
  • Increase commuter rail service run by the Virginia Railway Express by 75% along the I-95 corridor, with 15-minute intervals during peak periods and adding weekend service.
  • Increase Amtrak service to Newport News and improve the scheduling of the third Amtrak train to Norfolk.
  • Lay a foundation for Southeast High Speed Rail through the acquisition of the abandoned S-Line, which runs from Petersburg into North Carolina.
  • Preserve an existing freight corridor between Doswell and Clifton Forge for future east-west passenger service.

Amtrak’s Board of Directors in turn has approved a memorandum of understanding with the Commonwealth of Virginia cementing Amtrak’s commitment to the program.