January 10, 2020

Warner & Kaine Request Federal Funding for Amtrak in Virginia

~ Letter to U.S. Dept. of Transportation supports joint application by Virginia and Amtrak for matching federal funds to improve rail service ~

                                                                                                                                                         

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in support of Virginia’s joint application with Amtrak for matching funds to improve passenger rail service.

Following a recommendation by the National Surface Transportation Board to retire many existing railcars, some of which are over 40 years old, Virginia is pushing for funding under DOT’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program to help modernize Amtrak’s fleet and improve ride quality for Virginians. 

“Maintaining and repairing current equipment is costly in terms of both safety and efficiency. New railcars will provide safer, better, and more reliable mobility,” the Senators wrote in their letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “This funding, in conjunction with Virginia's numerous high priority passenger rail projects, will help make state-sponsored service a more reliable and pleasant transportation alternative.”

Virginia is one of 17 states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which account for nearly 50 percent of total Amtrak ridership nationwide. In FY2019, nearly one million individuals used the Amtrak Northeast Regional service, the highest number of riders recorded in the Commonwealth’s history. Stops along the Northeast corridor include Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Chao:

We write to express our support for the Commonwealth of Virginia's application, submitted jointly with Amtrak, for funding under the U.S. Department of Transportation's 2019 Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

The Commonwealth is leading efforts, not only with Amtrak but also with 16 other states, to procure new railway vehicles to replace its aging stock.  The National Surface Transportation Board has recommended that many existing railcars be retired, some of which are over 40 years old.  Maintaining and repairing current equipment is costly in terms of both safety and efficiency.  New railcars will provide safer, better, and more reliable mobility.  This funding, in conjunction with Virginia's numerous high priority passenger rail projects, will help make state-sponsored service a more reliable and pleasant transportation alternative.

Virginia is one of 17 states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which account for nearly 50% of total Amtrak ridership nationwide.  Currently, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation administers state funding for six daily Amtrak Northeast Regional round trips, originating in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke, connecting Virginians to stops along the Northeast Corridor.  In federal Fiscal Year 2019, over 924,000 individuals used the service - the highest number in the Commonwealth's history.  Pending award of this grant and action by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, Virginia is prepared to commit an additional $15 million in state funding and $32.5 million in Amtrak revenues to the project.

Please give full and fair evaluation to this project, which will benefit the safety and comfort of the travelling public.

 

Sincerely,

 

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