ASHLAND, Va. (WRIC) — On June 7, local government representatives and Amtrak officials gathered at the train platform in downtown Ashland, Virginia to unveil the results of a $58 million project spanning 16 stations across the United States.
The goal of the project – which will cover a total of 57 stations and cost $126 million – is to improve safety and accessibility. The Ashland station alone, officials said, serves 30,000 people a year, and improvements there spanned an entire block of the town, with new crosswalks, altered traffic patterns and a renovated platform, all designed to promote pedestrian safety.
“We are making these kinds of investments across our national network,” Amtrak Vice President Dr. David Handera said. “We want Ashland and all of our stations to be welcoming and a comfortable environment to all of our customers.”
The upgrades in Ashland come as new rail investments are being made across the commonwealth. In Chesterfield County, the town of Ettrick received a similar upgrade, including “substantial enhancements to the passenger experience including improvements to the station building, parking, and lighting.”
That renovation cost a total of $10.6 million, according to the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority, with $6.4 million provided by a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
“Your train station is the front door to your community,” said Thomas Stennis III, an Amtrak official.
The FRA has set aside $58 million to improve stations between Richmond and Raleigh, where the state is planning to build a high-speed rail corridor, a first for the South.
That corridor, along with a new rail service between Richmond and Washington, DC, was a part of a $3.7 billion investment by former governor Ralph Northam.
But even as Amtrak and Virginia focus on new projects, local leaders are making efforts to preserve the old. At the unveiling of Ashland’s new station, Mayor Steve Trivett said they incorporated bricks from the old station into the new design to offer a sense of continuity, “It finished so well that the old and the new blend perfectly together.”