DRPT’s Rail Division manages grant programs to implement freight and passenger rail initiatives. These funds have evolved over time and serve a specific function in the Commonwealth’s efforts to maintain a competitive rail network serving the Port of Virginia and achieve maximum truck diversion from Virginia’s highways.
The 2020 General Assembly established the Commonwealth Rail Fund to replace the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital and Rail Enhancement Funds. Of the funds allocated to CRF, 93 percent is dedicated to the new Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA). The remaining seven percent remains with DRPT for planning purposes and grants not administered by the VPRA. Additionally, up to $4 million may be used for the purposes of the Rail Preservation Fund.
DRPT is currently developing guidelines for this new program for the Commonwealth Transportation Board's approval.
The Rail Preservation Fund benefits the nine shortline railroads operating in Virginia, which provide the “local” network and the “last mile” of service for rail freight to reach its destination. The fund promotes the continuation of rail service by achieving Federal Railroad Administration Class 2 track safety standards, allowing freight service to operate at speeds up to 25 mph. It also promotes development of rail transportation support facilities, encouraging industrial growth and promoting truck diversion from Virginia’s highways. A minimum of 30% cash or in-kind contribution from private sources is required for this grant. No more than 50% of total annual funds available for the RPF can be dedicated to any one project.
The Rail Industrial Access Program promotes truck diversion by providing grant assistance to connect new or expanding businesses to the freight railroad network. The program supports localities, businesses, or industries seeking access to a common carrier railroad. Applications are accepted throughout the year. A grant of up to $450,000 may be requested. Funding requires a 30% match by the applicant. No locality may request more than 50% of funds available in any given year and grants are limited to one per locality per fiscal year. Program funding will be used to construct rail spurs for businesses for economic development.