Virginia Business: $729M federal transportation package will finish Long Bridge expansion

VIRGINIA BUSINESS, ROBYN SIDERSKY

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine attended a Dec. 7, 2023, event announcing $729 million in federal transportation funding for projects including completing the new Long Bridge across the Potomac River. Photo courtesy Office of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine.

The most significant rail choke point on the East Coast will be fixed as part of a $729 million federal funding package for transportation projects in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Thursday at an event in Arlington County also attended by a delegation of other state and local officials as well as Democratic congressional representatives.

The package includes funding to finalize the long-planned $1.9 billion expansion and upgrade of the Long Bridge, a nearly 120-year-old, two-track railroad bridge that connects Virginia and D.C. and serves as the main passenger and freight rail connection between the Southeast and Northeast.

“We’re thrilled we secured federal funding to support the construction of a new Long Bridge across the Potomac River and expand rail capacity and reliability in Virginia,” Sen. Mark Warner and Sen. Tim Kaine said in a statement. “This is another example of how the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is improving transportation networks, reducing congestion, and supporting economic growth in communities across Virginia and the country.”

Owned and operated by CSX Transportation, the bridge operates at 98% capacity at peak times, with nearly 80 CSX Transportation, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express trains crossing it daily. When more than two trains need to use the bridge, any additional trains must wait until the tracks are clear. A new state-owned rail bridge will be built parallel to the existing bridge, which will be dedicated for freight train use.

Once complete, the upgraded Long Bridge will include five rail bridges and two pedestrian/bicycle bridges. In addition to separating passenger and freight train traffic over the Long Bridge, the four-track corridor expansion also will double rail capacity over the Potomac River. The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority plans to begin site prep and construction in 2024 and complete the project by 2030.

The funding was awarded through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which passed in 2021. U.S. Reps. Don Beyer, D-8th, Gerry Connolly, D-11th, and Abigail Spanberger, D-7th, worked with Warner and Kaine to secure the funding and attended the announcement event Thursday, along with U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan, D-4th, at the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center in Arlington.

Other funding for the Transforming Rail in Virginia Phase 2 projects will go toward improvements to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro and VRE commuter rail station in Washington and will also pay for laying a third rail track along key sections of the Northern Virginia corridor in Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

The Long Bridge expansion project is estimated to contribute $1.1 billion annually to the national economy and support 17,750 jobs, according to a news release from Kaine and Warner’s offices.

“This investment will help transform the rail system in Virginia, improving the flow of people and goods not only within the commonwealth, but up and down the entire East Coast,” Youngkin said in a statement. “I appreciate the collaboration between our senators, our congressional delegation and our secretary of transportation to finalize the funding for this critical project this year and get this accomplished expeditiously. This project’s impact on the commonwealth cannot be overstated — it will ease congestion, make our supply chain more resilient, improve freight movement in and out of our world-class port and boost local economies.”

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