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Agreement Signed to Bring Passenger Rail to Roanoke - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Agreement Signed to Bring Passenger Rail to Roanoke

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell says passenger train service is heading to Roanoke for the first time in more than 30 years.

McDonnell on Thursday announced an agreement between the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Norfolk Southern to improve rail related infrastructure between Lynchburg and Roanoke.

Officials say the improvements will allow passenger rail to once again serve the Roanoke region.

The agreement includes track additions and realignments, signal and communication upgrades and a platform and train servicing facility in downtown Roanoke.

Dedicated funding for Amtrak Virginia trains was included in McDonnell's 2013 transportation package to continue support for existing services and expanding passenger rail options.

Office of Governor Bob McDonnell Press Release

RICHMOND - Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and Norfolk Southern Corporation have entered into an agreement to improve rail related infrastructure between Lynchburg and Roanoke. The improvements will allow passenger rail to once again serve the Roanoke Region. Governor McDonnell's 2013 transportation funding plan was instrumental in funding the return of intercity passenger rail service to Roanoke.

"DRPT and Norfolk Southern continue their strong partnership to advance intercity passenger rail service in the state of Virginia," said Governor McDonnell. "Intercity passenger rail service is central to the Commonwealth's economic growth, vitality and competitiveness in the region. Now the major population centers will have intercity passenger rail service."

"The historic transportation bill has opened the door for continued expansion and growth of intercity passenger rail service in the State. The extension of intercity passenger train service from Lynchburg to Roanoke would not be possible without passage of this legislation," said Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton.

"During this administration, new train service to Norfolk, and funding for the continuation of six state regional trains occurred," said Thelma Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). "With the signing of this agreement, the State will be able to extend Amtrak Virginia daily intercity passenger train service to Roanoke within four years with direct same seat service to as far north as Boston."

Wick Moorman, Norfolk Southern Chairman and CEO, stated, "Norfolk Southern is proud to expand our partnership with DRPT and the Commonwealth. Virginia's leadership enables both passenger mobility and economic development through a strong rail network."

"The signing of the agreement between Norfolk Southern and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is an important milestone in bringing Amtrak rail service to our community. This is a tremendous accomplishment for the Commonwealth, the Roanoke Valley region, and our city, and with this signed agreement we can accelerate the return of passenger rail to the valley," said Roanoke City Mayor David A. Bowers.

Included in this agreement are track additions and realignments, signal and communication upgrades along the route, clearance adjustments, and a platform and train servicing facility in downtown Roanoke. Design work will begin immediately. In another effort funded by the Commonwealth and Norfolk Southern, the downtown Roanoke rail connections are currently being reconfigured to improve the flow of train traffic through Roanoke, which is a prerequisite to reintroducing passenger rail service.

Known as the "Amtrak Virginia" partnership, Roanoke is the latest step for the Commonwealth to lead the way as one of the few states in the country to successfully negotiate the addition of new intercity passenger rail service in major rail corridors, balancing freight and economic development needs with additional intercity passenger rail options.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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