Big rail improvements headed to Northern Virginia — including a new Long Bridge

A proposed rendering of the Long Bridge project — adding a fourth rail track across the Potomac River and doubling passenger rail capacity. (Courtesy Virginia Passenger Rail Authority)

Big rail improvements are coming to Northern Virginia. Elected officials announced Thursday the state has received $729 million in federal funding.

The money will go toward the construction of a new Long Bridge over the Potomac River, currently a major chokepoint on the East Coast. When completed, the project will double the current bridge’s capacity.

“Long Bridge is like the skinny piece in the hourglass,” Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said at a news conference in Arlington. “Long Bridge is the connection between the Northeast and the Southeast, and there’s nothing that can really happen in terms of growing our rail usage — both for passenger and freight — if you don’t deal with Long Bridge.”

According to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, about 1.3 million Amtrak riders and 4.5 million Virginia Railway Express riders cross the bridge every year.

Other improvements include laying down a third line of track in Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania counties, as well as upgrades to L’Enfant Plaza Station in D.C., which is VRE’s busiest stop.

Leaders said these improvements will help reduce bottlenecks, expand capacity for both Amtrak and VRE service and set up potential rail expansion to Southwest Virginia.

“We in fact see this as not only an opportunity to connect people, but it’s a chance for us to connect commerce,” Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin said. “This will enable connection down to our national leading port in the Port of Virginia. We will see people from Northern Virginia here in Arlington all the way down to Fredericksburg, Richmond, [and] Petersburg down into Raleigh. We will see Virginians on the move.”

The funding comes from an infrastructure bill passed by Congress in 2021.

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