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Plans for Potomac River train bridges, which could lead to expanded Roanoke Amtrak service, move forward

Current bridge is at 98% capacity

It could still take a decade before the new bridges are built.

ARLINGTON, Va. – A major piece in potentially bringing more Amtrak service to Roanoke passed a crucial step on Wednesday.

The Long Bridge project would alleviate train traffic between Arlington and Washington with two new train bridges over the Potomac River. The plan’s environmental impact statement was approved, which clears the way for engineering and designing the bridges.

Virginia Department of Public Rail and Transportation director Jennifer Mitchell said the current bridge over the Potomac River is at 98% capacity, making it impossible to expand Amtrak service. She said the Long Bridge project will not only open up new Amtrak possibilities, but take freight traffic away from Interstate 81.

Mitchell said she’s still discussing a Roanoke expansion with Norfolk Southern, which owns the tracks. However, she says she knows people want more service in Southwest Virginia.

“Roanoke was one of our most profitable lines before COVID and one of our lines with one of the greatest ridership increases,” Mitchell said. “We know the demand for passenger rail out there is very strong. We know people are looking for an alternative to I-81, so we hope we can continue to expand passenger service.”

The Long Bridge project is in its early stages. It could be a decade before the new bridges are complete.