U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, of Virginia, on Friday handed over $20 million in federal money to build the Long Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian Crossing Project across the Potomac River, which would provide non-car options near the 14th Street Bridge — but Warner says the “the big enchilada” comes next.
The project, connecting East and West Potomac parks, in D.C., with Long Bridge Park and the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington, will provide a smooth, dedicated path for walkers or bikers.
Currently, cyclists and walkers can use the path on the 14th Street Bridge or Memorial Bridge, but those are “a little hairy,” said Warner, who added he has crossed the 14th Street Bridge on his bike.
While the $20 million for the bridge and pedestrian project was made possible by Warner’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, he’ll next be “asking for a large contribution from the feds,” to build a new two-track span parallel to the Long Bridge, which serves as the main route for trains traveling south of the District.
The new bridge would double the capacity at a perpetual choke point for rail traffic on the East Coast.
“Right now, the one bridge over the Potomac is shared with freight rail, and freight rail gets first dibs,” said Warner. “We’ve got to get the rail bridge created that will be dedicated to passenger rail.”
When it’s completed, the new bridge would carry only passenger trains, including Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express. The current bridge, owned by CSX, would be used exclusively for freight rail.
“If we’re ever going to have high-speed rail, we have to have this dedicated passenger rail line,” Warner said.
In 2019, then-Gov. Ralph Northam and CSX announced a $3.7 billion agreement for the commonwealth to buy 225 miles of track and build new passenger rail improvements. The goal was to dramatically increase Amtrak and VRE service, and get hourly service between Richmond and D.C.
Warner was joined at an event Friday by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Arlington County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey, Alexandria City Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, and Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Executive Director DJ Stadtler.
“We know people in our region want more opportunities to to get around without cars,” Bowser said. “People want to live and work near train stations — they want to get around on bikes and scooters and buses, and enjoy all that this region has to offer.”