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VRPI's mission is to strengthen and improve public policy with respect to both freight and passenger rail in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Through objective and rigorous research, publication, education and outreach, VRPI strives to increase public understanding of freight and passenger rail and to promote public policies that will secure the future of inter-city rail as a cost-effective, sustainable and essential element of Virginia's 21st century transportation system.


VRPI was conceived in 2002 by a group of citizen rail advocates affiliated with Virginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR) who believed there was a need for an independent, academically-oriented rail policy research and development center to support public policymaking for rail in Virginia.

In 2004, VRPI sponsored a forum on Transportation Connectivity, attended by representatives from all major transportation modes and transportation user-groups. As an outgrowth of the forum, VRPI was formally incorporated and established as a 501 (c) (3) organization in 2005.

The original Directors and Fellows of VRPI represented a wide range of backgrounds in public policy and transportation, including members from Virginia's major university-based transportation research centers.


Today, VRPI is a private, nonprofit group of leaders and researchers, from a wide range of academic and professional backgrounds, who have come together to identify and pursue unresolved and evolving public policy issues associated with intercity passenger and commuter rail, and intermodal rail freight services, throughout the Commonwealth. 

Working in collaboration with Virginia’s institutions of higher education, and other resource centers, VRPI can provide better a more cost-effective policy work product alternative to the traditional commercial rail transportation consultancy community. 


VRPI proudly calls itself the Commonwealth's only independent, non-partisan research and policy think tank dedicated to addressing the present and future role of rail transportation in Virginia. Since gaining nonprofit status, VRPI has mostly been funded by its own crew, all of whom serve without compensation – the officers, directors, and those brainy fellows, with some admin support from VHSR. The founders of VRPI believe that this broad pool of non-partisan talent, experience and perspective can, and will prove especially useful as the Commonwealth proceeds to invest more of its scarce transportation resources in rail. 


VRPI's founders prepared a Proposed Rail Plan for Virginia in 2004 that included a history of rail in Virginia, an examination of the present state of rail, and specific proposals for how rail should move forward.


In 2006, VRPI published its first major policy paper dealing with issues arising out of public funding of rail infrastructure on privately-owned rail rights of way. This document anticipated that large investments of public funds would be appropriated annually for rail capital projects as a result of recently-passed legislation establishing a dedicated fund for this purpose (the Rail Enhancement Fund) (REF). 

In 2010 VRPI published a report on the effectiveness of the Rail Advisory Board, an appointed citizens board charged with developing recommendations for allocating REF funds and "identifying, developing and advocating projects and policies" for rail transportation.

VRPI also has produced various comment letters and reviews, including in-depth reviews of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation's 2008 and 2013 Statewide Rail Plans, comments and recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration on the Future of the Northeast Corridor, and comments to the Commonwealth Transportation Board regarding its on-going review of the first decade of the Rail Enhancement Fund.

In addition, articles by individual members of the VRPI Board and Fellows have appeared in a variety of national and statewide publications devoted to transportation or public policy. 

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