In December of 2019 the Commonwealth of Virginia announced a historical $3.7 Billion agreement with CSX Transportation and Amtrak that will have passenger trains operating almost every hour between Washington D.C. and Richmond, VA by 2030. It will also vastly expand Virginia Railway Express commuter rail service and improve CSXT’s capacity, all while costing far less than an interstate highway expansion. The scale of the acquisition can’t be understated: it involves 350 miles of railroad rights of way from CSX Transportation, including the Buckingham Branch and the former S Line between Richmond, Virginia and the North Carolina State Line.
“I think this is a historic day for Virginia. I don’t say that lightly. We haven’t owned a rail corridor in well over 30 years. Taking ownership and having a stake in the corridor between Richmond and D.C. is a very big deal.” said Danny Plaugher, Executive Director of Virginians for High Speed Rail.
As with every “very big deal”, the devil was in the details. RLBA was part of the large team contracted by Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to address them in supporting its program of acquiring vastly expanded rail capacity in Northern Virginia. RLBA’s analyses contributed to negotiations with host railroad, CSXT, notably by being part of a cadre of experts informing the negotiating team by way of an innovative analysis that monetized the capacity consumed by VRE commuter rail trains in terms of freight railroad profits impacted. RLBA is one of the few, if not the only firm capable of such work.
The intensive negotiations resulted in a mutually beneficial arrangement for both CSX Transportation and the Commonwealth. “CSX is proud of the innovative agreement reached with the commonwealth of Virginia, which will advance our goals for increased safety, efficiency and volume growth while meeting the public’s desire for more passenger rail service to relieve commuter traffic congestion in the I-95 corridor,” CSX President and CEO Jim Foote said.
More specifically, RLBA also 1) conducted feasibility assessments of various infrastructure and operating scenarios being considered between Washington, D.C. and Fredericksburg, Virginia; 2) utilized the firm’s real-world railroad operating expertise to evaluate network design options and calculate operating and maintenance (O&M) costs; 3) calculated track asset valuations and 4) oversaw and managed real estate valuations of the constituent corridors.
RLBA’s contributions helped make possible Virginia’s historical December 2019 announcement of what is perhaps the largest public investment in private railroad infrastructure in recent history – save for the acquisition of rights of way to foster Los Angeles’ Metrolink commuter rail system – which RLBA also helped facilitate.