“By increasing freight and passenger rail capacity and adding long-sought connections between bicycle and pedestrian routes in the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia, the Long Bridge Project is helping us build not just a more connected region, but a greener and more sustainable region,” Bowser said.
The existing Long Bridge, owned and operated by CSX, is the only railroad bridge connecting Virginia to the District of Columbia, and it is one of the most significant passenger and freight rail choke points along the east coast. Under normal circumstances, the bridge functions at 98 percent capacity during weekday rush hours, preventing the District, Virginia, and Maryland from increasing passenger and commuter rail options for its communities.
“A new bridge across the Potomac River represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make the rail system work better for everyone along the entire East Coast,” Northam said. “The project has passed an important milestone, thanks to close collaboration between Virginia, D.C., and the private sector. We are all excited about bringing easier and faster mobility to commuters and travelers.”
Through the complete separation of passenger and freight rail, the new bridge will significantly reduce congestion for CSX and its customers throughout most of its network in Virginia and the District. As planned, an additional 1 million trucks will be removed from roadways in Virginia and the District each year after the bridge is complete.
“We appreciate the strong collaboration with the Commonwealth of Virginia, the District of Columbia, VRE and Amtrak throughout the Long Bridge study process,” said James M. Foote, CSX President and CEO. “CSX looks forward to continuing these positive partnerships as we work to improve both freight and passenger rail capacity and service in the region.”
The Long Bridge Project also includes a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that will be the only independent bridge over the Potomac River solely dedicated to non-vehicular use. The bridge will cross the River between the Mount Vernon Trail, Crystal City, and the monumental core of the District.
“These new bridges will ensure personal mobility is prioritized for District residents and commuters, without the negative impacts of increased traffic congestion or air pollution,” said DDOT Director Jeff Marootian. “This project is another example of the Bowser Administration’s commitment to not only expanding D.C.’s network of protected bicycle lanes, but also investing in infrastructure that will make alternative transportation safer for commuters and residents.”
DRPT can proceed to the project’s next phase — which includes engineering, financing, and construction — now that The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) has been jointly signed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), DDOT, and DRPT; and the FRA and the National Park Service (NPS) have issued the joint Records of Decision (ROD).
“The completion of the FEIS and ROD for the proposed Long Bridge capacity expansion project is a significant milestone that will allow Virginia and the District of Columbia to move forward with expanding the rail crossing over the Potomac River,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “This effort was the result of collaboration at the state and federal level and was supported by FRA grants for planning and environmental review.”
The completed Environmental Impact Study for Long Bridge, initiated by the District of Columbia in 2016, evolved to include the addition of the bicycle and pedestrian bridge, and an expansion of the track design from two to four tracks. The expanded Long Bridge will enable Virginia to double its state-supported Amtrak passenger rail service, nearly double Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter rail service by 2030, and make way for future Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) Service to Virginia.
“The Long Bridge project, made possible through collaboration with private, regional, and federal partners, will transform passenger and freight rail operations for generations to come,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Unlocking the gridlock across the Potomac will improve rail service, expand capacity for the Port of Virginia, connect workers to key employment centers, and contribute to our nation’s economic recovery and growth.”
“VRE’s ability to improve reliability and increase service is contingent upon this dedicated passenger-rail bridge,” said VRE Acting CEO Rich Dalton. “As a funding partner, we look forward to working with our colleagues at DRPT, Amtrak, CSX, and other state and federal agencies to bring about this transformation, which will improve the commutes of Virginians in our service area for decades to come.”
The FEIS and ROD also make the Long Bridge project eligible for additional federal financing opportunities. Initial cost estimates of the bridge project are approximately $1.9 billion of the $3.7 billion total cost of the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative, financed with local, regional, state, and federal sources including a nearly $944 million partnership with Amtrak.
“Amtrak commends this latest development for the construction of a new, expanded Long Bridge, which will be a critical step in increasing passenger rail, protecting our environment, and enhancing mobility,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Operating and Commercial Officer. “We look forward to continuing our work with Virginia and all stakeholders to move this important project forward and increase transportation options for the community.”