State to acquire rail line

CSX Transportation, which owns the railroad in Louisa County, has agreed to sell it to the Commonwealth of Virginia as part of a $3.7 billion statewide deal to improve passenger and freight rail transport.

The Commonwealth of Virginia finalized an agreement to purchase hundreds of miles of railroad right-of-way, including the entire section that passes through Louisa County.

Part of a $3.7 billion investment to expand and improve passenger, commuter and freight rail, the deal will keep freight trains humming through the county, according to a March 30 statement released by Gov. Ralph Northam. Over the long term, the state may look to use the corridor for a return to passenger rail service.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to build a 21st century rail system in Virginia and along the entire East Coast,” said Northam. “This historic initiative will help get people and goods where they need to go more efficiently, reduce congestion and pollution, and create a more inclusive economy.”

The state still has to complete the actual purchase of rail right-of-way from CSX Transportation. Buckingham Branch Railroad, which has leased the tracks to operate daily freight service through Louisa since 2004, will continue to do so, said Steve Powell, the rail company’s president.

Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express, a passenger commuter line that links Richmond and Washington, D.C., are expected to increase service in various parts of the state as a result of the deal announced Tuesday. Improvements in freight service will benefit the Port of Virginia, which increasingly relies on it to move goods as roads such as Interstate 64 become more congested. 

The state hasn’t committed to any specific infrastructure improvements along the Louisa portion of the east-west train corridor. Along the rail line that runs north-south from Richmond to Washington, upgrades are planned to allow Amtrak and VRE to double the services they offer.

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