VRE to contribute millions to advance transforming rail in Virginia

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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VRE to contribute millions to boost passenger service in Virginia.
David C. Lester

The Virginia Railway Express (VRE), having successfully closed a public bond sale on June 28, will make a significant financial contribution to the Transforming Rail in Virginia (TRV) program.

The commuter rail service will use $119.2 million of the bond proceeds to support the commonwealth’s purchase of rail right-of -way in the Interstate 95 corridor from CSX Transportation.

“This bond issuance demonstrates our commitment to revolutionizing rail travel in the region,” said VRE CEO Rich Dalton. “As a major beneficiary of Transforming Rail in Virginia, VRE has worked to identify opportunities to support this important initiative. In addition to funds from the bond issuance, VRE will contribute another $75 million over the next 10 years on a pay-as-you-go basis, bringing our total financial support to nearly $195 million.”

Those 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 not seen in decades,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of VPRA. “This financial contribution from our VRE partners will enable us to increase and improve service, making VRE a viable option for even more Virginians. We thank VRE for their foresight and commitment to expanding 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 fund projects with environmental benefits. Net proceeds from VRE’s bond issuance will support the acquisition of rail right-of -way, essential to increasing passenger rail service. The expansion of VRE service – to include off-peak, evening and weekend trains – and intercity passenger rail service will help reduce future emissions of greenhouse gases and particulates.

The bonds are backed by revenues from the Commuter Rail Operating and Capital (CROC) Fund. Created by the General Assembly in 2018, the CROC Fund receives $15 million annually from motor fuels tax revenues collected in the 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 also will come from the CROC Fund.

Beyond these financial contributions, VRE will support TRV through station and rail infrastructure improvements. Its $1.1 billion capital improvements program is more than two-thirds funded. Among the projects are those that would lengthen existing and build new platforms to accommodate longer trains and allow for the simultaneous boarding of two trains at a station.

VRE, the nation’s 13th largest commuter rail service, connects Central and Northern Virginia with the District of Columbia. VRE is recognized for its provision of safe, reliable, convenient, and comfortable transportation. Its two lines, Manassas and Fredericksburg, serve 19 stations, including two – L’Enfant and Union Station – in D.C. Additional information is available at https://www.vre.org/

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