VRE will contribute millions to improve passenger service in Virginia.
David C. Lester
The Virginia Railway Express (VRE), after successfully completing a public bond sale on June 28, will make a significant financial contribution to the Transforming Rail in Virginia (TRV) program.
Commuter Rail Service will use $119.2 million of bond proceeds to support the Commonwealth’s purchase of rail right-of-way in the Interstate 95 Corridor from CSX Transportation.
“This bond issue demonstrates our commitment to revolutionizing rail travel in the region,” said Rich Dalton, CEO of VRE. “As a primary grantee of Transforming Rail in Virginia, VRE has worked to identify opportunities to support this important initiative. In addition to funds from the bond issue, VRE will contribute an additional $75 million over the next 10 years on a pay-as-you-go basis, bringing our total financial support to nearly $195 million.
These funds will go to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA), which manages the $4 billion TRV program. “Our Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative is an immense investment in passenger rail transportation that hasn’t been seen in decades,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of VPRA. “This financial contribution from our VRE partners will allow us to increase and improve service, making VRE a viable option for even more Virginians. We thank VRE for its foresight and commitment to developing passenger rail in the Commonwealth.
Demand for the bonds — issued under the name of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC), which co-owns VRE — was strong based on double-A credit ratings and a green bond designation. Green bonds finance projects with environmental benefits. Net proceeds from VRE’s bond issuance will support the acquisition of the rail right-of-way, critical to increasing passenger rail service. Expanding VRE service – to include off-peak, evening and weekend trains – and intercity passenger rail service will help reduce future greenhouse gas and particulate emissions.
The bonds are secured by revenues from the Commuter Train Operating and Capital Fund (CROC). Created by the General Assembly in 2018, the CROC Fund receives $15 million annually from automotive fuel tax revenues collected in jurisdictions represented on VRE’s two parent commissions, NVTC and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. The final maturity date for the entire bond series is June 1, 2052.
VRE’s additional $75 million contribution to TRV will also come from the CROC fund.
Beyond these financial contributions, VRE will support TRV by improving stations and rail infrastructure. Its $1.1 billion capital improvement program is more than two-thirds funded. Among the projects are those that would lengthen existing platforms and build new ones to accommodate longer trains and allow two trains to board simultaneously at a station.
VRE, the 13th largest commuter rail service in the nation, connects central and northern Virginia to the District of Columbia. VRE is known for providing safe, reliable, convenient and comfortable transportation. Its two lines, Manassas and Fredericksburg, serve 19 stations, including two – L’Enfant and Union Station – in DC. Additional information is available at https://www.vre.org/
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