RICHMOND (WFXR) — The New River Valley will have passenger rail service for the first time since 1979. Gov. Ralph Northam finalized an agreement with Norfolk Southern Corporation to expand its services.

This is part of Northam’s historic $3.7 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia program — which is to build a 21st century rail network across the Commonwealth.

Transforming Rail in Virginia is an investment not only in our rail system, but also in the residents and businesses along the corridor and in the New River Valley,” said Northam.Together with our partners at Norfolk Southern, we are making essential improvements that modernize our transportation infrastructure and connect communities across the Commonwealth. We look forward to continuing this important work to help move people and goods efficiently, reduce congestion and pollution, fuel tourism, and drive economic growth.”

The Western Rail Initiative will add a second state-supported round-trip train between Roanoke and Boston later this year. It will then extend to the New River Valley once a new station, track and signal improvements are completed.

In the agreement there will also be a third train that will operate between Roanoke and the New River Valley. This project will add approximately 80,000 new passengers in the first year, create significant economic benefits and provide additional options for travelers along the Interstate 81 and Route 29 corridor. There will also be a freight rail service provided that will help move goods and materials for the Commonwealth’s economy.

In addition, Norfolk Southern will acquire approximately 28 miles of the Norfolk Southern-owned “V line” right-of-way and existing tracks from Christiansburg to the Salem Crossovers, along with a passenger rail easement between the Salem Crossovers and the Amtrak Roanoke station platform.

“This agreement with the Commonwealth of Virginia is a great example of government and business partnership,” said James A. Squires, Chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern. “Together, we have created a path forward to increase passenger rail service and ensure that freight rail customers continue to move the goods that power our economy. Importantly, this will yield economic dividends from Northern to Southwest Virginia, both through the necessary infrastructure improvements and additional use of the rail lines.”

There will also be improvements in infrastructure between Manassas and the Roanoke Yard. These improvements are partially funded by contributions from the I-81 Corridor Multimodal Improvements Fund, Commonwealth Rail funds, and the General Assembly’s 2021 Transportation Initiatives.

“The Commonwealth’s historic investment in this region’s passenger rail network is a significant milestone in our commitment to elevating the economic competitiveness of Southwest Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine, who led the legislative effort to launch the first state-supported passenger train anchored in Lynchburg. “This cooperative agreement builds on the highly-successful passenger rail service in the corridor and enhances vital connectivity to the New River Valley with the rest of Virginia, adding additional transportation options for the region’s residents, tourists and college students alike.”

This initiative is expected to help Virginia’s economy grow by more than $2 billion annually. More information on Transforming Rail in Virginia can be found on its website.