Dec 11, 2023 - News

Richmond to Charlottesville passenger line a step closer to reality

Illustration of a train with cash flying out of it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Virginia is a step closer to landing the east-west passenger rail line of its dreams.

What's happening: The project, which would open service between Richmond and Charlottesville, won a $500,000 planning grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation last week.

  • It was among a flurry of major infrastructure announcements impacting Virginia totaling more than $1.7 billion — all part of the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed by President Biden in 2021.

The big picture: Dubbed the Commonwealth Corridor, the goal is to directly connect Hampton Roads, Richmond, Charlottesville, Roanoke and the New River Valley.

  • Currently, all of Virginia's rail lines terminate in D.C., and the only Amtrak connection between Richmond and Charlottesville is provided by bus.

Catch up fast: The idea was first proposed by rail advocates in 2018 and embraced in 2020 by state lawmakers, who agreed to fund an initial feasibility study, per the Virginia Mercury.

  • The state estimates that once established, it would take about an hour and a half to travel between Richmond and Charlottesville by train.

Zoom out: It was a big week for trains.

  • Other federal grants announced include $1 billion to advance high-speed rail between Richmond and Raleigh and $729 million to double the capacity of Long Bridge, the only rail link between Virginia and D.C.
  • The state also landed several additional smaller awards, including $500,000 to study extending Amtrak service to Bristol and $500,000 to begin offering daily service between D.C. and Staunton.
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