Sens. Warner, Kaine request federal funds for Amtrak in Virginia

Commonwealth News

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WFXR) — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Friday to request funding to replace aging Amtrak railcars in Virginia.

The Commonwealth of Virginia submitted a joint application with Amtrak to the DOT’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program in order to secure matching federal funds and improve passenger rail service for Virginians. This joint application followed a recommendation from the National Surface Transportation Board to retire many of the railcars — some of which have been around for more than 40 years — in Amtrak’s fleet.

“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 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.”

According to the press release from Warner’s office, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation currently uses state funding to finance six round trips through the Amtrak Northeast Regional corridor, including stops in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke. Over the course of the 2019 federal fiscal year, the Commonwealth accommodated a record-breaking 924,000 riders in the Northeast corridor.

The Commonwealth is also working alongside 16 other states and regional authorities to fund the state-sponsored Amtrak business lines of service, which the senators say account for almost 50 percent of Amtrak ridership across the country.

According to the senators’ letter, “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.”

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