The Greater Washington Partnership has launched an effort to explore how the region can build a world-class commuter rail system connecting Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia within 25 years.
The partnership, a group of business leaders from across the region, announced its "Capital Region Rail Vision" project Tuesday with support from key stakeholders and leaders from Amtrak, state departments of transportation, and existing commuter railroad systems. The partnership said the vision will build upon existing plans and outline the steps needed to better connect the region, from Baltimore to Richmond, with more frequent and rapid rail service each day of the week, seamlessly spanning state borders.
In a news release, the partnership noted that the region's current rail network is operationally and physically fragmented among several service providers and owners, which strains rider connections, potentially lowers operator revenues and increases operational inefficiencies.
“Linking communities on both sides of the river will enhance our economic competitiveness by expanding access to opportunity,” said Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG Smith and a member of the partnership's transportation committee. “Employers can recruit from a wider share of our region’s workforce, job seekers will have better access to growing employment centers, and employees will have more housing options within commuting distance. The Capital Regional Rail Vision will show us how to get there.”
The Rail Vision is divided into two parts—a high-level Vision Report expected to be completed this fall and an in-depth Technical Report expected to be released in early 2021.
“For too long, the Potomac River has been a stumbling block to a more cohesive, integrated rail network,” said Jared Solomon, a Maryland state delegate. “The Capital Region Rail Vision will help our region’s leaders work together to establish a shared vision. Collectively we want to overcome key barriers to enabling one-ride connections for Maryland residents to Amazon HQ2 jobs at National Landing and vice-versa for Virginia residents. We want to better understand what it will take to link up our important defense agencies and related economic activity at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Meade, the Pentagon and Quantico, as well as jobs across the region.”
Recent findings from a market assessment showed demand for new and expanded rail service with an estimated 17,500 new daily trips by 2040 — nearly the same number of current Virginia Railway Express riders currently. Additionally, a recent analysis by JBG Smith found that a more unified, integrated rail network would increase the number of residents within one hour by transit to destinations in National Landing and Alexandria by 765,000, of whom 60 percent would be people of color and 38 percent college-educated. The same analysis found that employees at those destinations would have access to nearly 100,000 additional moderately priced housing units within a one-hour transit commute.
The Capital Region Rail Vision provides us an excellent opportunity to deliver a more competitive regional rail system," said Jennifer Mitchell, Director of Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation. "Through effective regional collaboration, we can fully leverage the plans and investments of our Transforming Rail in Virginia initiative and move forward together successfully as a region."