Virginia is on the verge of becoming one of the most successful, rapidly-expanding states for passenger rail in the nation. But if the General Assembly does not act this year to approve a dedicated, sustainable source of funding for Virginia's trains, the wheels could soon stop turning.
TheLynchburg-DC-New York/Bostontrain has set national records since it began in 2009. In just over three years, it has reached a milestone ridership of more than 500,000 (that's half a million!) at Virginia stations alone.
You've heard us at thePiedmont Rail Coalitionappeal every year for a dedicated, long-term source of funding to keep the Lynchburg-DC train and Virginia's other regional trains running.
Now is crunch time for Virginia's passenger trains.
Beginning October 1, 2013, the federal government will require that all states pick up the full cost of all regional trains. As a result, Virginia will have to pay for six trains, including the Lynchburg train, entirely from ticket sales and state funds.
Virginia's six existing regional trains serve the communities of Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Norfolk, Newport News, Williamsburg, Petersburg, Richmond, Henrico, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Woodbridge, Quantico, Burke Centre, Alexandria, as well as Virginia Beach, Roanoke, Blacksburg and Salem, which have direct bus connections to regional passenger rail.
While theLynchburg service-- Amtrak's second fastest growing route -- has been making a profit, the federal law will leave the state with a much smaller share of the ticket revenue. The Lynchburg route is also slated to be extended to Roanoke, which will require major infrastructure investments, and soon, additional trains will be needed to keep up with growing demand.
The bad news is that Virginia has no source of dedicated revenue to keep our trains running, to offer additional service on existing routes, or to extend these routes to new stations.
The good news is that several bills in the 2013 General Assembly provide for dedicated and sustainable revenue for the future of Intercity Passenger Rail. This includes Governor McDonnell's transportation funding bill, which provides $54 million for the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund (IPROC), and Senator John Watkins' bill, which provides $48 million. A compromise bill will likely be proposed.
No matter which approach is eventually adopted, it must include dedicated funding of at least $50 million for intercity passenger rail. Here's a short message to send to your Senator and Delegate.
"Please Support Dedicated, Sustainable Funding of at least $50 million Annually for Intercity Passenger Rail. Thank You."