When highways get congested, the asphalt trucks eventually arrive and start laying down new lanes. Railroads sometimes need a similar solution — more tracks. That’s what Virginia is trying to do with its DC2RVA high-speed rail project. It wants to build one more set of tracks between Washington and Richmond and two more across across the Potomac, from Alexandria to Washington.
The federal government this week gave its approval to the new trackage in Virginia. Adding tracks across the river to D.C. will require expanding the Long Bridge, which still requires environmental studies and additional funding. The Long Bridge is generally regarded as the biggest bottleneck on the East Coast and slows train traffic from New England to Florida. Congress authorized its construction in 1808 and President Thomas Jefferson signed the bill a short time later.
The federal approval means that Virginia can start designing and building the new tracks between Alexandria and Richmond, a process that will take several years, while planning for the Long Bridge expansion continues.
Even before the Long Bridge is expanded, Virginia transportation officials say the extra set of tracks will make it possible to run more Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) trains to and from Richmond, and to do so at somewhat higher speeds than is now possible. That’s seen as helping to relieve congestion on I-95, the most congested freeway on the East Coast.
The VRE already carries enough passengers to amount to an additional lane on I-95, those officials say.