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Franconia railroad bridge project gets on track with $100M in federal funds

The Franconia-Springfield Bypass will add a bridge to accommodate VRE and Amtrak trains (via Virginia Passenger Rail Authority)

(Updated at 6 p.m.) A project to enhance the capacity of a key rail line through Fairfax County is chugging along, thanks to a major infusion of federal cash.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority has been awarded $100 million in federal funds to design and build a bridge that will allow Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak trains to cross over tracks approaching the Franconia-Springfield station (6880 Frontier Drive), Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner announced yesterday (Thursday).

The bridge will relieve congestion and open up the possibility of additional passenger and freight service on the railway, which is one of Virginia’s busiest, according to the senators.

“Passenger rail is a vital connector for so many Virginians — carrying people to their work, their families, and their travel plans,” Warner and Kaine said in a joint statement. “We’re thrilled to see this funding make rail safer and more efficient for Virginians by addressing a critical chokepoint in a vital location, alleviating congestion for hundreds of Virginians every single day.”

Under development since 2021, the Franconia-Springfield Bypass will consist of a roughly 1-mile-long bridge that will carry passenger trains over two existing tracks for CSX freight trains just south of the rail station, VPRA officials said at a neighborhood meeting in July.

The bridge will have just one track, but it will be built to accommodate a future second track.

The project is part of a larger push by Virginia to improve its rail service between Fredericksburg and D.C. Other projects include an extension of a third track that currently starts in Alexandria for about six miles from Franconia to Lorton.

“Expanding passenger rail as an alternative to interstate travel is critical as traffic congestion in Northern Virginia continues to grow at an unsustainable rate,” VPRA Executive Director DJ Stadtler said. “Building the Franconia-Springfield Bypass will allow us to expand our state-supported rail service by alleviating train interference at the most congested point in Virginia…The bypass is key to providing Virginians with reliable, consistent, and convenient passenger rail service.”

According to VPRA, engineering on the bypass is scheduled to begin this year, with construction potentially kicking off in 2024 and finishing in 2026. VPRA has budgeted $405 million overall for the project, a spokesperson says.

The new federal funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021 and a fiscal year 2022 spending package, Warner’s office said.

Map via Virginia Passenger Rail Authority