NORFOLK, VA.—On December 2, 2013, city officials and residents gathered at the Norfolk station to cut the ribbon on a new city-financed depot, which replaces a temporary facility in use since Amtrak service to Norfolk began last December. Speakers included Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Thelma Drake and Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim, who told the crowd, “With modern, comfortable amenities, the new passenger rail station will greatly improve the passenger experience while serving as an identifiable landmark for those arriving to and departing from Norfolk.”
The new 3,500 square foot, $3.75 million depot was designed by architects and engineers with the Michael Baker Corporation. Rusticated stone clads the steel structure on the first floor, while red brick is used to highlight the depot’s two-story center block, which is punctuated by a three story tower with a sloping roof. Large windows allow abundant natural light to flood the interior, creating a bright, airy space for passengers. While the stone and brick ground the station in classic design, the generous use of glass gives the building a modern edge. Interior features include a comfortable waiting room, accessible restrooms and ticket counter. Outside, new canopies partially cover the concrete platform.
Intercity passenger rail service returned to Norfolk on December 12, 2012, following a 35 year absence. The initial service consists of a daily roundtrip Northeast Regional train extended south from Washington, D.C., via Richmond and Petersburg, made possible through the cooperation of Amtrak Virginia, a partnership between Amtrak and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; track owners Norfolk Southern and CSXT railroads; and the city of Norfolk.
The state invested more than $100 million to improve the freight tracks between Richmond and Norfolk and build the platform and pull-through siding track at Harbor Park. This commitment, as well as a good working relationship among the partners, meant that the new service launched almost a year earlier than planned. Since 2009, Amtrak Virginia has also overseen popular service expansions to Richmond and Lynchburg.
In the long term, the city envisions the area around the station and the Harbor Park baseball stadium as a major transportation hub for Norfolk that will bring together the services of Amtrak, light rail, local buses and river ferries. The area is also bordered by the Elizabeth River Trail, providing connections for bicyclists and pedestrians. Once all these pieces are in place, city planners believe the surrounding blocks will be ripe for redevelopment as a mixed-use area with housing, commercial, office and cultural space that will reinforce its identity as an eastern extension of Norfolk’s lively and revitalized downtown.
Service within Virginia on the extended Northeast Regional to and from Norfolk is
primarily financed as a state partnership through funds made available by the
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.