Early Work on Potomac Bridge Begins This Fall

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
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Courtesy of Virginia Passenger Rail Authority

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Work on a rail bridge over the Potomac River begins this Fall. The rail bridge, costing $2.3 billion, will expand passenger rail capacity over the next ten years.

The Washington Post has reported that work on a rail bridge over the Potomac River will begin this Fall. The rail bridge, costing $2.3 billion, will “expand East Coast commuter and passenger train capacity over the next decade.” On Tuesday, Virginia Passenger Rail Authority officials stated that one of two contracts should be issued this year. This would keep up with the projected bridge opening timeline in 2030. The new two-track rail bridge would run along the Long Bridge (owned by CSX), “the main route for trains traveling south from Washington,” and “double train capacity to support commerce and increasing demands for passenger rail along the busy East Coast corridor.” 

However, according to the report, VPRA officials have warned of potential timeline delays if funding is not secured soon. There exists a $729 million budget gap. VPRA has looked into federal grants totaling $829 million (via two programs) “to help pay for construction of the bridge and other projects in Virginia’s $7.2 billion rail program.” These projects would alleviate increased congestion in train traffic along the Potomac River. 

DJ Stadtler, Rail Authority Executive Director commented on the excitement and the readiness of the project, stating “We’re going to move forward and put shovels in the ground and really make a difference to the way people move around here.” Stadtler also pointed out that the next few months are “critical” in securing federal funding for “the southern section, including the new bridge.”

Construction crews “will begin a pile-driving project this fall to test soil conditions in the area, including just north of the Potomac to assess whether soil strengthening is required before major work begins next year,” according to Shirlene Cleveland, The Rail Authority’s Long Bridge Project Senior Director. Additionally, a piling project will perform soil testing at the bottom of the Potomac this fall, according to WTOP.

This winter, VPRA will hire a contractor to “oversee work on the northern side” and “includes construction of a rail bridge over I-395 and the replacement of three rail bridges and a pedestrian bridge in the district.” For the construction next year, a second contract is expected.

According to the Washington Post report, “CSX will retain ownership of the Long Bridge and two tracks south of it,” and then the Commonwealth of Virginia would “own a third and fourth track from the new bridge that would carry passenger trains.” The project has its obstacles, notably “the tight space to build between the Long Bridge and Metro’s Yellow Line span,” and the fact that the project’s location near the Reagan National Airport “means the builder will need to limit how high equipment can extend into the air.”

Despite the challenges, VPRA officials have maintained the “expediting [of] construction of the bridge” as “critical to expanding rail operations in Virginia.”

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