DRPT's Rail Division supports both freight and passenger rail initiatives in Virginia through funding and advocacy for railroad network improvements. Improvements are implemented through four grant programs, with funds from other sources, such as the federal government, leveraged when possible. The Rail Division has three general areas of focus: Passenger Rail, Freight Rail, and Special Projects.
Passenger Rail funding includes operation of intercity passenger rail services and capital improvements to the railroad network and passenger rail equipment. DRPT provides grant funds to six regional Amtrak trains on four routes:
- Route 46 – 1 daily round trip from Lynchburg to Washington, D.C. and the Northeast Corridor
- Route 47 - 2 daily round trips from Newport News to Washington, D.C. and the Northeast Corridor
- Route 50 – 1 daily round trip from Norfolk to Washington, D.C. and the Northeast Corridor
- Route 51 – 2 daily round trips from Richmond to Washington, D.C. and the Northeast Corridor
The Rail Division coordinates with Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, other states, local Metropolitan Planning Organizations, and agencies on passenger rail operations, planning, and development.
Freight Rail funding includes improvements to Class I railroads (CSX and Norfolk Southern), eight shortline railroads, the Virginia Port Authority, and businesses expanding or locating on the railroad network. In addition to improving freight capacity, DRPT works to preserve existing freight capacity when accommodating new passenger rail services.
Special Projects can materialize outside the annual grant cycle schedule and require coordination with host railroads, the federal government, the Virginia Legislature or other stakeholders to accomplish policies, goals, or capital improvements. This includes special legislative funding for specific projects, applications for federal funds for high speed rail initiatives, and coordination with local and regional transportation authorities on studies and demand analysis.