Passenger train approved; Windsor hopes for station

Published 4:28 pm Monday, December 20, 2010

RICHMOND—Virginia and Norfolk Southern Railway on Monday signed an agreement that within three years will bring daily passenger rail through Isle of Wight County.

The round-trip train will link Norfolk with Richmond, Washington, D.C., and cities as far north as Boston.

It’s not known, however, whether or not Windsor will be chosen as a stop.

“At this point, no stops have been chosen,” Courtney Ware, manager of policy and communications for the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation in Richmond said Monday. “We will be working on that. Most locations (along the route) have expressed an interest in being a stop.”

Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson, Town Council and Isle of Wight County officials in October proposed making Windsor a stop. They spoke with Thelma Drake, director of the Department of Rail and Public Transportation, who had stopped in Windsor. Drake said a study was under way.

Officials believe getting a station in Windsor would a boon to the town’s and county’s economy. The passenger trains would pass through Windsor on the Norfolk Southern tracks that run parallel to U.S. Route 460.

The agreement provides for the speedy upgrading of Norfolk Southern tracks between Norfolk and Petersburg so they are suitable for use by passenger trains, according to a news release from Gov. Bob McDonnell. Funded by an $87 million Rail Enhancement Fund grant, the projects include upgraded signaling, track extensions and connections, passenger train turning and servicing facilities, and a track and platform near Norfolk’s Harbor Park for the passenger train.

Also included is construction of a new connection between Norfolk Southern and CSXT tracks near Petersburg. These improvements will enable passenger trains to run on Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor route.

“Connecting Norfolk to the Amtrak network and the Northeast is a major step forward for the mobility of the region,” Drake said.

Norfolk Southern will work with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to complete the work outlined in the agreement. The project is being designed, and construction will begin in 2011.

The Virginia-Norfolk Southern partnership is designed to restart rail passenger service in the corridor between Norfolk, Richmond and the Northeast. The trains will be part of Amtrak Virginia regional service, and will operate at speeds up to 79 mph between Norfolk and Petersburg.

The route between Norfolk and Petersburg is part of Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor, the primary rail route serving the Port of Hampton Roads. The Heartland Corridor opened to handle double-stacked container trains in August 2010, providing a more direct route between Norfolk and the Midwest.