RD679 - Annual Report on the Uses of the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund – 2019

Executive Summary:

The 2011 General Assembly created the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital (IPROC) fund to support the annual costs of operating intercity passenger rail services as well as acquiring, leasing, or improving railways or railroad equipment; and the 2013 General Assembly dedicated 0.05% of statewide sales and use taxes to fund it. The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is the state agency responsible for administering, expending, and committing these funds subject to the approval of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). In the current Six Year Improvement Program, the CTB has committed $372.7 million in IPROC funds from Fiscal Year 2020 to Fiscal Year 2025 to projects throughout the Commonwealth. These funds will be used for capital projects and operating expenses for six daily round trips operating on four routes as listed on page 3 of the report.

Ridership in FFY 19 saw an increase of 85,211 passengers over FFY 18 numbers. This increase occurred for several reasons. First, there was an extension of one Richmond service to Norfolk, providing it with two daily round trips. Simultaneously, Amtrak and DRPT made changes to the departure and arrival times in Newport News to provide citizens throughout Hampton Roads with a variety of arrival and departure options at both stations. Additionally, the introduction of a 15 percent discount for all Virginians traveling with the Commonwealth and to the District of Columbia has led to an increase in ridership. Lastly, the Acca Yard project was completed at the end of 2018, which had a negative impact on ridership along the Interstates 95 and 64 corridors in FFY 18.

Passenger rail provides tremendous benefits to Virginia. Passenger travel by rail avoids about 271 million miles of personal driving, and passengers on eight railcars are equal to 240 passenger vehicles. For that reason, DRPT has taken the lead on numerous capital and planning projects throughout the state. These projects will help increase the use of passenger service providing benefits to the transportation network.

The largest of these projects is the Long Bridge program of projects. There is currently an existing bottleneck due to a two-track Long Bridge connecting three tracks on each side of the Potomac River in the District of Columbia. At present, the bridge is at 98 percent capacity during the peak a.m. and p.m. hours, with traffic split at 70 percent passenger and 30 percent freight. DC2RVA, the Washington, D.C., to Richmond segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail project, indicated there is no further capacity available for additional passenger trains in the Commonwealth beyond those funded in the current Six Year Improvement Program without a second Long Bridge and related Interstate 95 improvements.

The remainder of the IPROC-funded planning and capital projects throughout the Commonwealth are highlighted in the map on page 5 of the report.

The Commonwealth has invested programmatically in Virginia rail systems, and the many investments have been significant. Passenger rail service benefits all Virginians and offers a viable alternative to vehicle travel on the many congested roadways throughout the state. As we enter a new decade of passenger service in the Commonwealth, DRPT remains committed to maintaining as well as building upon current service.