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COMMENTARY: A new Long Bridge is critical to Virginia's economic growth

COMMENTARY: A new Long Bridge is critical to Virginia's economic growth

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FOR FOLKS who live along the Interstate 95 corridor in Prince William County, the City of Fredericksburg, and Stafford County, it should come as no surprise that our area includes the worst traffic hotspot in the nation. Addressing the congestion issue along the I–95 corridor is essential to improving transportation in our area and across Virginia’s 1st Congressional District.

Long Bridge, the most heavily traveled railroad bridge connecting Washington, D.C., to Virginia and other southern states, is one of the most significant chokepoints for the East Coast’s rail transportation system. The bridge connects the northeast and southeast freight rail networks and extends the spine of the nation’s intercity passenger rail system from the northeast corridor to the southeast.

The existing bridge, which is at 98 percent capacity during peak hours, is used by CSX Transportation freight trains, Amtrak long distance and state-supported trains, and Virginia Railway Express (VRE) commuter trains.

That is why I introduced HR 7489—the Long Bridge Act of 2020—with my colleague, Congressman Don Beyer (D–8th District). This legislation comes after numerous years of successful negotiation between Virginia, D.C. and CSX—which owns the bridge .

These negotiations culminated in a December 2019 landmark agreement to expand reliability and service on Virginia’s rail lines, creating a pathway to separate passenger and freight operations along the Richmond-to-Washington corridor.

The Long Bridge Project would double the capacity of the Potomac River rail crossing by adding a second two-track bridge adjacent to the existing bridge.

This project, which supports projected increases in freight and passenger rail traffic along this corridor, is crucial to continued economic growth and enhanced mobility in Virginia. It will also increase the capacity of the rail network for the Port of Virginia, where 37 percent of goods move in and out by rail.

The Port of Virginia will need to increase this share to 45 percent by 2040 to handle a threefold increase in shipments. Building a new Long Bridge will double rail capacity at the major rail bottleneck on CSX’s main route from the Port of Virginia to the Midwest and Northeast.

Expanding Long Bridge is imperative to Virginia’s economic growth strategies and bringing more jobs to the 1st District.

The proposed design is a new two-track bridge upstream of the current Long Bridge with five additional bridges in Virginia and D.C. Along with other track projects in the area, this project will create a four-track corridor from just south of Union Station to Alexandria.

The Long Bridge Act of 2020 will authorize the Secretary of the Interior, through the director of the National Park Service, to convey and approve the use of a small section of NPS land for the construction of the new Long Bridge structure for rail and for an additional walkable/bikeable pedestrian bridge spanning the Potomac River.

The bill will convey title and interest to Virginia of about 4.4 permanent acres of National Park Service land needed for the construction.

A new Long Bridge will go a long way towards easing congestion along the I–95 corridor and cut down on commuter travel time that plagues many Virginia residents. The construction of a separate passenger-only bridge will also allow freight to move more freely from the Port of Virginia, taking thousands of large trucks off roadways.

Expanding corridor capacity is an economic catalyst for the whole region: $6 billion annually in economic benefits to the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area is expected by 2040. This expansion is critical to the 1.3 million Amtrak passengers and 4.5 million VRE commuters that cross the Long Bridge each year, and will ease i their crowded and congested commutes.

I want to thank Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Congress members Eleanor Holmes–Norton of Washington, Anthony Brown of Maryland and Jennifer Wexton, Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott, Ben Cline, Morgan Griffith, Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Donald McEachin of Virginia for their co-sponsorship and bipartisan support.

I, along with my colleagues, will work diligently to pass the Long Bridge Act of 2020 to ease congestion for many Virginians.

Congressman Rob Wittman represents Virginia’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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