RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginians living in the Blue Ridge region and New River Valley will soon have increased access by rail to Washington and the entire Northeast Corridor.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and Norfolk Southern Corporation announced the financial closing of the Western Rail Initiative Agreement, which will expand passenger rail supported by the commonwealth with service from Washington, D.C. to Roanoke.

The agreement will create a new round-trip between the two cities, with stops in Alexandria, Manassas, Culpeper, Charlottesville and Lynchburg which will begin July 11. There is also potential for a new station in Bedford and there are plans for infrastructure improvements between Manassas and the New River Valley.

“The closing of the Western Rail Agreement is great news for Virginians as this is a big step forward in our mission to expand passenger rail to the New River Valley,” said DJ Stadtler, executive director of VPRA. “Communities along the Interstate 81 and Route 29 corridors will now have more passenger rail options when traveling to and from our nation’s capital and beyond, and the improvements will also increase our economic opportunities by enhancing freight rail service through the Commonwealth.  We thank our partners at Norfolk Southern for helping us make this a reality.”

According to VRPA, passenger rail service to the Blue Ridge region began in 2009 with trips to Lynchburg and ridership was triple the predicted number during the first year. Service was extended to Roanoke and ridership has continued to grow since. 88,000 passengers are expected to use the new service during its first year.