Governor Bob McDonnell announced today that the Bay Coast Railroad Car Barge will resume service next week as a result of a partnership between the Commonwealth, area localities, and the Bay Coast Railroad. The barge, which was removed from service last year, provides connecting service between the Virginia’s Eastern Shore and Norfolk/Virginia Beach. Last year, the Bay Coast Railroad suspended service on the barge when it identified $1 million in structural deficiencies critical to the barges safety. In order to restore service, the Commonwealth of Virginia provided a grant through the Shortline Railway Preservation Fund, which included $700,000 in state funds and a $300,000 match provided by Accomack and Northampton counties, as well as Bay Coast Railroad.
Speaking about the partnership, Governor McDonnell noted, “The partnership to return this critical rail-barge service is an example of the Commonwealth’s commitment to invest in innovative transportation solutions. The service delivers greater rail options to one of our country’s busiest ports, provides essential rail service to the Eastern Shore, and reduces truck traffic in the Hampton Roads area.”
The rail-barge connects Bay Coast Railroad tracks on the Eastern Shore with its tracks in Little Creek (Norfolk/Virginia Beach) by barge, operating across 26 miles of water between the northern and southern shores of the Chesapeake Bay. While repairs were underway, freight shipments were diverted to truck for shipment through the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, or to Norfolk Southern for rail shipment through Maryland and back down to Hampton Roads. While these temporary diversions helped ensure that freight continued moving, it also led to longer shipping times and greater truck traffic in Hampton Roads.
The Commonwealth is also supporting a container barge service between Hampton Roads and the Port of Richmond. This service, called the “64 Express”, is taking thousands of trucks off heavily traveled I-64. This service has recently been designated an “American Marine Highway" by the Maritime Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation.