DRPT Newshub- Winter 2021

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virginia department of rail and public transportation

Newshub Winter 2021


Director's Message 

While 2021 might feel like the movie, Groundhog Day, we hope you are staying positive and testing negative.

Since our last report, DRPT continues moving forward with the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative.  In addition to making progress on various aspects of the $3.7 billion agreement with CSX that was announced late in 2019, Governor Northam announced a $50 million budget proposal to support passenger rail expansion in Western Virginia, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board submitted a SMART SCALE application for $50 million towards this same initiative. Additionally, the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority board continues to meet monthly as they work diligently to mobilize the Authority. 

Our transit agencies continue to operate throughout the pandemic providing essential services. DRPT state and federal grant applications were due on February 1, and we will be evaluating them through April. The public comment period for the I-495/American Legion Bridge study has concluded, and DRPT is now working on a final recommendations report. Lastly, DRPT received a federal COVID-19 research grant that will be used to develop a toolkit to help rebound ridership and redefine transit in our new normal.  

As we settle into 2021, I want to express continued gratitude to our partner agencies who tirelessly work around the clock to provide essential travel to Virginia communities. Despite these difficult times, we continue to track forward with our initiatives. Thank you for reading this quarter's update. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Jennifer Mitchell

The Virginia Transit Association (VTA) presented its annual awards at a virtual reception on December 15, honoring Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine with the 2020 Distinguished Public Official Leadership Award and DRPT with the Public Transportation Distinguished Leadership – Public Agency Award. Each year, VTA recognizes outstanding leadership and contributions by individuals and agencies that are working to advance public transportation in the Commonwealth.


In December, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognized our Chief of Public Transportation, Jen DeBruhl, for her exemplary contribution to the AASHTO Council on the Public Transportation Multi-State Transit Technical Assistance Program


DRPT FY2020 Annual Report

DRPT has produced a report highlighting key 2020 programs, including Transforming Rail in Virginia, transit and transportation demand management initiatives to reduce single-occupant vehicle travel, COVID-19 response, programs to strengthen our freight rail network, and many more. 

Read Report

Northam Administration Supports Expanded Passenger Rail Service

Roanoke Star

Governor Northam has proposed $50 million in one-time General Fund dollars in FY22 to help improve intercity passenger rail service along the US-29/I-81 corridor. The initiative would include a second daily round trip Amtrak service, with stops in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas, Burke and Alexandria; extension of the existing and new second trains to the New River Valley; and improved freight and passenger rail reliability. The Northam Administration is committed to expanding passenger rail service throughout the Commonwealth. Improved passenger rail service along this corridor has been a priority for more than a decade – the first discussion of a second train started in early 2014. 

The Commonwealth is engaged in negotiations with Norfolk-Southern to finalize an agreement. 

 Key points:

  • Amtrak service along the US-29/I-81 corridor has been very successful to-date with ridership increasing 77% from its inception in 2009 to over 220,000 riders in 2019
  • The New River Valley has strong demographics for successful rail service with a population over 180,000, including more than 40,000 university students
  •  Studies indicate that 80,000 additional riders are expected to use the new service that this initiative would provide
  • As a demonstration of demand along this corridor, the current Roanoke train is the only Amtrak service in Virginia that covers 100% of its operating costs through ticket revenue

I-495/American Legion Bridge Transit and TDM Study

I-495 ALB Map

DRPT, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Transportation- Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT-MTA) and VDOT, hosted a virtual public meeting on January 12, to discuss draft transit and transportation demand management recommendations for the I-495 American Legion Bridge study.    

DRPT and MDOT-MTA have compiled the findings and recommendations for the I-495 American Legion Bridge Transit and TDM study. The public comment period on draft recommendations for multimodal improvements along the corridor closed on February 1, 2021. 

DRPT and MDOT-MTA have jointly managed and funded the study. The overall goals are to prioritize transit options and transportation demand management strategies that address bi-state travel across the American Legion Bridge. The agencies will now complete a final report with transit and TDM recommendations for the corridor.  

FTA Awards DRPT COVID-19 Research Demonstration Grant


The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $247,500 in COVID-19 Research Demonstration funds to DRPT to enhance mobility for transit users affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.  

The pandemic has significantly impacted the public transportation industry, consumer confidence, and transit ridership. The COVID-19 Research Demonstration grant will allow DRPT to create a comprehensive collection of resources to help transit providers adapt to a new normal. It is intended to define the role of transit in this new environment and strengthen public confidence in transit services. DRPT will use the funding to develop an “Adapting to a New Normal” toolkit, including a strategy handbook and a statewide messaging campaign to assist transit agencies in safely restoring service and ridership. The handbook will include state-approved protocols and guidance on: 

  • Employee and passenger safety
  • Long-term sanitation strategies
  • Increasing service frequencies
  • Reducing vehicle capacity
  • Implementing multi-door boarding
  • Deploying contactless payment solutions equitably
  • Adopting longer term zero fare policies

The combined toolkit will provide our transit partners with a package of products that can be used to address two primary questions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic: how agencies can safely and efficiently increase service levels to pre-pandemic levels, and how agencies can rebuild consumer confidence in the areas they serve.

Black History Month

DRPT is celebrating Black History Month by highlighting on social media important African American-led transportation innovations and recognizing black leaders in our partner agencies. Representatives from Amtrak, Arlington County, Blacksburg Transit, Eastern Shore Area Agency on Aging, FREDericksburg Regional Transit, Greater Richmond Transit Company, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Petersburg Area Transit, PRTC OmniRide, RideFinders, Virginia Regional Transit, and Williamsburg Area Transit Authority were nominated by their colleagues to be featured as part of DRPT’s Black History Month.  Thanks to everyone who helped us identify the deserving leaders within your agency.    


General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) Webinar

DRPT hosted a GTFS webinar on February 5, to provide transit agencies with an overview of a new DRPT led effort to construct a statewide GTFS clearinghouse and dataset. DRPT is being assisted in this effort by Kimley Horn and Trillium Transit who will be collecting, analyzing, and reviewing the state of GTFS data across the Commonwealth. In addition to collecting existing feeds DRPT will be working with select agencies to provide direct technical assistance for GTFS feed development and maintenance.

Watch the webinar here


Virginia Passenger Rail Authority Update

The Board held a meeting on January 25. The agenda included recommendation of the VPRA FY22 Budget to CTB, adoption of the VPRA Employee Manual, and a briefing on major procurements that are part of the $3.7 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia program. The VPRA board also met on December 14.  The agenda included an overview of the draft VPRA personnel policy, a VRE presentation by Rich Dalton, and appointment of committee chairs, Wick Moorman for the Executive Director Search Committee and Hossein Sadid, chair of the Finance and Audit Committee.

Long Bridge Procurement 

Long Bridge

The Long Bridge preliminary engineering (PE) procurement was awarded to VHB, Incorporated in January for a 24 month contract valued at $21 million. The commencement of the PE phase marks the next milestone for the almost $2 billion project, which had its environmental clearance approved by USDOT in September 2020. The PE phase will include the start on environmental mitigations, obtaining right of way, preparing permits, preparing agreements with partner organizations, bringing the 15% engineering design to 30%, and determining the project final design and construction delivery.

Rail Industry Day- February 24, 2021


DRPT and VRE will host a Virtual Rail Industry Day on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, from 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. DRPT and VRE will present information on upcoming projects and solicitations while engaging industry leaders in an open discussion about business opportunities. Attendance is open to all members of the contractor community interested in participating in rail improvement projects in Virginia.

Rail Industry Day is an opportunity for contractors to gain a better understanding of Commonwealth’s new VPRA, the Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative with CSX, and upcoming projects, updates, and procurements being offered by DRPT and VRE in 2021. Attendees will learn how the agencies’ projects and procurements align with those in the Commonwealth’s $3.7 billion Transforming Rail in Virginia program.