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Va. submits high-speed rail request

Virginia has submitted new applications requesting federal funding for high-speed rail, including more than $50 million for the I-95 corridor between Richmond and the District, the commonwealth said yesterday.

The commonwealth worked with rail operators and its Congressional delegation to draft the applications. The United States has historically lagged behind its European counterparts, and high-speed rail funding--pushed in part by Congressional leaders such as Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who say it could revive languishing economies and integrate out-of-the-way areas--makes up a sizeable chunk of the stimulus package.

"High speed rail will provide significant benefits for one of the Commonwealth's most congested travel corridors, promoting tourism, job growth and economic development," Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Thelma Drake said in a release. "The Washington, DC to Petersburg segment is the next logical extension of high speed rail service on the East Coast."

The first round of rail funding under the stimulus program included $8 billion for high-speed rail, including about 12 miles of a third track in Prince William and Stafford Counties to reduce congestion. This second round is for roughly $2.5 billion through the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The program required matches at least 20 percent of the grant; CSX provided about $3 million, in addition to about $8 million in Virginia funds.

By Luke Rosiak  | August 20, 2010; 5:08 PM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Freight Rail, Virginia, Virginia Railway Express  | Tags:  High-speed rail  
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I fail to see how high speed rail in VA solves anything. We already have Amtrak service to Newport News but it is not particularly profitable. Making it faster would increase costs without making a big difference in ridership. The only people who would really benefit are those who use the Northeast Corridor, but the main benefit for them would not be the increased speed, but rather not having to kill a half hour changing engines at DC.

You have to think about the circumstances in which people would take rail as opposed to drive. It only works when you don't want or need a car at your destination. Cities like Richmond, Williamsburg, and Newport News are just not set up that way. They are too spread out.

At best this is just pork. At worst this will just lead to increased maintenance costs down the line. Why is VDOT pushing so hard for this when VA's biggest transportation issue is insufficient capacity between Dumfries and Fredericksburg? If rail was an option for the people stuck on 95 every weekend, they would already be taking it.

Posted by: slar | August 20, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Richmond actually has enough of a downtown core with financial services, medical services, state government, and VCU to support some rail service. But the market they're targeting isn't people heading into Richmond, Williamsburg, or Newport News. They're targeting Virginians who want to head north, to DC, Baltimore, Philly, or NYC. These are all places where many people wouldn't need a car at your destination.

Interestingly, when Amtrak and New York started increasing service between NYC and Albany they met with the same criticisms that slar includes in his/her comment. There are now 13 daily round trips, mostly sold out, and operating on less and less subsidy as the years pass. While ridership is skewed towards NYC as the destination, there is a significant flow into Albany in spite of all the nay-sayers.

Posted by: mdennis74 | August 20, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

i wonder would they offer reverse commuter service to Richmond from DC, only people that wouldnt see the benifits of this are the people that will never give up there car, they rather drive solo to DC and beyond

Posted by: JeroRobson1 | August 21, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

"historically lagged"? Thats like saying Zambia has "historically lagged" the U.S. in the space race.

Even in our ultra-expensive area, a proper high speed rail can be built for the cost of our wars for three or four months ($60 billion or so).

Whats with this 20% stuff, anyway? Do we want to get money to the states or not? Federalize and expedite the siting process and require a token payment, say, 3% or so, or nothing from the states.

Posted by: jimharper1 | August 21, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

If they're targeting Virginians who want to head North, then why is the stated objective "promoting tourism, job growth and economic development"? Sorry, VA has shown no inclination to align its transportation network with its business plans. There are plenty of things they could do:
* rail link from Dulles to Manassas (and therefore the entire US29 corridor)
* align the transportation network with the BRAC by a) not promoting Mark Center as a location (yuck) and b) creating rail and bike links to Ft. Belvoir
These would actually help matters.

I'm not totally against rail. I just think there are places where it makes sense, places it does not, and places where the existing infrastructure is sufficient. I think North Carolina's plan to connect the Research Triangle, Greensboro, and Charlotte is an excellent one. As for the Albany comparison, Albany (like most Northeastern cities) is much more compact than Richmond and NYC is, well, the largest metropolitan area in the country.

Posted by: slar | August 21, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Wilderness-raping pork.

Posted by: jiji1 | August 23, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

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