More Amtrak trains are coming to Hampton Roads, but not any time soon

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Pixabay)
(Southside Daily/Courtesy of Pixabay)

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s DC2RVA Rail Project aims to help relieve congestion on the highways like I-64 and other areas in Northern Virginia.

How? By adding round trip trains to Norfolk and Newport News to relieve congestion on highways like Interstate 64.

But how will these additional trains affect Hampton Roads and when will the trains actually start service?

The DC2RVA Rail project is a statewide transportation project to improve travel times and add more passenger trains, according to the project’s website. 

One part of the project is adding one round trip train to Norfolk by late 2021 and early 2022, said Jennifer Mitchell, director of the DRPT.

Mitchell said it is currently being negotiated with CSX and Amtrak and is projected to cost $2.2 million in operation cost.

Another project, known as the Long Bridge Project, is the biggest factor in the DC2RVA Rail Project since it connects Washington, D.C. to Virginia. The area tends to bottleneck and create more congestion in the area.

“They are important to Hampton Roads because a lot of the passenger trains today go over that bridge,” Mitchell said.

She noted the department is in the process of putting together funding which will be a series of improvements from now until 2040.

The Long Bridge project will take approximately 10 years which includes the final design, track work and construction.

The entire DC2RVA Rail Project will cost “near $6 billion,” Mitchell said.

“The plan itself does anticipate four new daily round trips in Hampton Roads,” she said, adding the two round trips with start and end in Norfolk and the remaining two train routes will start and end in Newport News.

“We are very enthusiastic about expanding passenger rail across the state,” Mitchell said.

But what about Newport News Transportation Center?

Newport News, alongside several other agencies including DRPT, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration are involved in moving the Amtrak station to the corner of Bland Boulevard and Jefferson Avenue, right across the street from the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport.

“We have formally asked for permission from VDOT and FHWA to advertise the first phase of the project,” Vincent Urbano, project manager for the Newport News Transportation Center, wrote in an email. “Hopefully that is granted this month and we can advertise the 1st phase which is grading, drainage and utility relocations.”

Urbano noted the project, which is funded by both the city and state and local grants, has multiple contracts including advertising for track work, a service building at Sluice Mill Pond and the third phase, the train station building.

“The third phase which is VDOT, FHWA and DRPT funded would then be advertised in the November –December time frame which builds the main train station building, station platform and parking lots etc,” Urbano added.

The project is expected to be complete by the fall and winter time frame of 2021, right before the DRPT adds another roundtrip train to Norfolk.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.