Long Bridge expansion to speed up D.C.-Va. rail traffic
Plans for constructing a $1.9 billion, two-track railroad bridge connecting Virginia to Washington, D.C. — doubling the number of tracks going across the Potomac River from the U.S. capital to the commonwealth — are chugging right along.
“We’re now moving forward to advance the engineering design and that should be completed by 2023,” says Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
Massachusetts-based civil engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. won the $21 million contract to complete preliminary engineering on the Long Bridge project. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 with completion expected by 2030, according to DRPT spokesperson Haley Glynn.
That day can’t come soon enough for riders on commuter and regional passenger rail.
The current Long Bridge, which is 117 years old, is the sole rail connection between Virginia and D.C. Owned and operated by CSX Transportation, the bridge often functions at 98% capacity. When more than two trains need to use the bridge, any additional trains must wait until the tracks are clear, according to Glynn.
The new two-track bridge will be owned by DRPT and will run parallel to the existing bridge, which will be used solely for freight trains. “Separating passenger and freight traffic will help alleviate the rail congestion,” Glynn said in a statement.
Mitchell estimates that with the addition of the new tracks, the corridor will serve 18,000 new freight and passenger train crossings annually — which could take 1 million trucks and 5 million cars off highways each year.
The project will be funded via a mix of state and federal funds as well as through partnerships with Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Amtrak, according to DRPT spokesperson Haley Glynn.
Amtrak has pledged $944 million to the Transforming Rail in Virginia plan, a $3.9 billion initiative designed to expand passenger, commuter and freight rail in Virginia through agreements between the state government, CSX, VRE and Amtrak. Completion of the Long Bridge Project is a cornerstone of the plan, which also includes goals such as doubling Amtrak service in the state.
The federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the U.S. Senate in August but had an uncertain future in the House as of mid-September, included $66 billion for passenger rail — money that could help fund the Long Bridge project, according to U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine’s office. “Federal funding is still critically needed for this project to move forward,” Kaine says.