Virginia station receives $6.4 million for long-awaited upgrades

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ETTRICK — The tab for the long-awaited facelift of the Amtrak station here just got a $6.4 million federal government boost.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority announced the U.S. Department of Transportation grant on Tuesday. It will pay for improvements to the 68-year-old station in disabled access areas, a new boarding and detraining platform, new signage and improvements inside the station.

The grant will cover more than 60% of the total $10.6 million cost to repair the station. The rest of the funding will be provided by VPRA.

The improvements are part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Railroad Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program and coincide with a $58 million investment in the section of the Southeast Railroad Corridor between Richmond and Raleigh, North Carolina. Part of the improvements to this corridor will replace 75 miles of previously owned Seaboard Coast Line track between Petersburg and Ridgeway, North Carolina to strengthen the East Coast’s high-speed rail network.

“At VPRA, our mission is to increase the quality of rail service for all passengers in order to make us a reliable transportation option for everyone, including those with physical disabilities,” said DJ Stadtler, Executive Director of VPRA, in a press release. “We have worked closely with the FRA and Amtrak to develop plans for Ettrick Station that will use our grant money to provide additional housing, truly improving the lives and travel options of Virginians.”

Related:Ettrick’s Amtrak station on track for $1 million in federal funds to upgrade site: Congressman

Improvements to Ettrick include:

  • best americans with disabilities law [ADA] access from the car park to the station and from the station to the train;
  • a new 850-foot platform in the boarding area, plus a new awning to cover it;
  • a covered walkway and new wheelchair facilities;
  • a new counter in the station;
  • improved interior lighting;
  • replacement of public toilet doors; and
  • replacement of all interior and exterior signage.

Ettrick currently handles around 30,000 rail passengers a year, according to VPRA. With the upgrades, that total should increase to over 10,000.

US Senator Tim Kaine, left, D-Virginia, speaks with Douglas Duncan, a former Ettrick Amtrak station employee, during a visit to the station last April.

Six round-trip trains pass through the station daily, including two Virginia-sponsored services. A third state-supported round trip is expected to be added, and future plans call for a third track to eventually connect to the station.

Construction of the station upgrades is expected to begin in 2024 and take approximately 1-2 years.

The upgrades are good news for a station that was on the chopping block a few years ago. At the time, officials were considering moving the station to Colonial Heights, but pressure from local and state political leaders caused that plan to be cancelled.

Most travelers passing through the station are students from Virginia State University, a block away. VSU cited the convenience of student travel as one of the main reasons Ettrick Station should stay.

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Bill Atkinson (he/him/her) is an award-winning reporter and daily news coach for the USA TODAY Network’s Atlantic region, which includes Virginia. He is based in Petersburg, Virginia. Contact him at [email protected]

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James H. Wright