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Rail pilot project exceeds targets

The first state-funded, intercity passenger train that launched last fall has exceeded its annual performance target, carrying more than 55,000 passengers from Lynchburg to Boston during its first six months, Virginia rail officials said Wednesday.

The service, launched in October, is operated by Amtrak and funded by Virginia as part of a $17.2 million, three-year pilot program. The pilot includes a second train from Richmond to Boston, which is scheduled to start in July, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation officials said.

The Lynchburg train runs along the Interstate 81/Route 29 corridor, making a handful of stops in Virginia before heading into Washington and on to Boston. Rail officials had projected that about 51,000 people would ride the train annually, but the service brought 55,025 riders in just its first six months. The service also exceeded the annual revenue goal of $2.6 million by generating $2.8 million by March, DRPTÖ officials said.

Although a success, DRPT Director Thelma Drake said it is important to remember that passenger rail ridership fluctuates, so it is unclear what the numbers will look like when the three-year trial period ends. If, however, both trains prove successful, passenger rail could extend to the Roanoke and Norfolk areas. The challenge, DRPT officials said, will be funding. The Virginia General Assembly allocated $6 million for rail enhancements through fiscal 2011, but after that, no funding has been slated.

-- Jennifer Buske

By Washington Post Editors  |  May 20, 2010; 3:21 PM ET
Categories:  transit  | Tags: boston train, intercity rail project a success, lynchburg to boston train, pilot train exceeds target numbers, rail project, train to boston a success  
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