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Va. gets $45 million for high-speed rail

Kafia Hosh

Virginia is one step closer to getting its own high-speed rail service and thereby reducing traffic along the notoriously clogged Interstate 95 corridor.

The state has been awarded $45.4 million in federal transportation grants toward the development of a high-speed passenger rail service between Richmond and Petersburg and Washington.

The grant will pay for preliminary engineering and an environmental impact assessment of the rail service, which will use trains traveling between 85 to 100 miles per hour. The trains would make the 115-mile trip to Washington in about 90 minutes.

Sens. James Webb (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) worked with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit to obtain the funds through the Federal Railroad Administration.

"Improved passenger rail service along the Interstate 95 corridor will reduce highway congestion, conserve energy, shorten travel times and create economic development opportunities," Warner said in a statement.

The grant will allow the state department of rail and public transit to begin preliminary engineering and environmental work for the Richmond to Arlington section of the federally designated Southeast High Speed Rail corridor linking Washington to Charlotte, N.C.

-- Kafia A. Hosh

From the's Post's archives:

High-speed rail in the East? not so fast.

Amtrak unveils high-speed rail vision

Virginia submits high-speed rail request

By Kafia Hosh  | October 26, 2010; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  Commuter Rail, Commuting, Northern Virginia, Transit, Virginia  
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Comments

Seems like a nice benefit for Richmond. Not sure it will have any impact on the roadways. But one could see the potential economic benefits to the Richmond area if the NE Corridor no longer terminated in DC.

Posted by: JoeSchmoe06 | October 26, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

How many cars do they actually believe would be taken off the road? If it's enough to help with congestion, it would still be worth driving. It won't get rid of trucks, it won't get rid of Floridians, and it won't get rid of New Yorkers. The five people a day who actually drive from Richmond to DC can carpool for less than $45 million.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 26, 2010 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Ninety minutes? I may as well drive.

Posted by: linroy62 | October 26, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Man, that was fast. Look how long it takes Metro to get Fed money. And I'm sure more Federal workers ride Metro than commute from Richmond.

Posted by: jckdoors | October 26, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

This isn't high speed rail. This is barely normal speed rail. We need clarification and definition in this country so that we know that what we're paying for is actually what it claims to be. High speed rail is anything over 200 km/h (120 mph) for upgraded track and 250 km/h (160 mph) or faster for new track. This is nowhere near what they're proposing. People drive 80 or 85 MPH on the highway! Instead of creating a piecemeal system using existing rail, we need to create ALL NEW lines to take advantage of high speeds. Where's the appetite for adventure, innovation, and the conquering spirit we used to have in America? Where's the sense of urgency for modernization in this country that created the existing (slow) rail system and the interstate highway system?

Posted by: crzytwnman | October 26, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

@crzytuiop
The biggest issue for rail in Virginia is that the engines used in the Northeast corridor are different than the ones used in VA, necessitating a 30 minute delay in DC to go from Alexandria to New Carrolton. Eliminating this delay is the single biggest improvement that can be done to improve the network here.

As far as what you are calling "high speed", the bottom line is that it is way too expensive. Amtrak recently floated a $100 billion dollar estimate to create true high speed service from DC to Boston. Anyone with a lick of common sense knows that it would be foolish to green light such a project. The funding for this project is preliminary, but we are probably looking at a 10 figure investment, not a 12 figure one.

As for effect on I95, I'm not so sure.
In VA people who drive 80 MPH are categorically reckless so don't go by that. On a Friday afternoon, the average speed is more like 10MPH between Springfield and Fredericksburg. My suspicion is that even with "slow" rail, people who could use it already would. From my experience, the #1 reason people don't use rail is because they need their cars at their destination. Right now unless people are staying in semi-urban centers like Richmond, rail is a non-starter.

Now maybe they could come up with a way to use the Auto Train to get cars across the congestion. If they found a way to save time by doing this, people would pay for the privilege. Maybe that is the appetite for innovation that we need.

Posted by: slar | October 26, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a great idea for starters. The NEC definitely needs to be extended. However I do think the trains should travel at faster speeds. The trip from Washington to Richmond should take 60 min. by train.

Will this route go from petersburg to Richmond then directly to Washington? Or will there be stops along the way? Seems as though a lot of stops would slow the traveling time but on the other hand if you don't have between stops you'll be missing a lot of the possible commuters that would be passengers. Fredericksburg/Quantico? although that area already has rail access via VRE. Or what about a stop near kings dominion? But I'd definitely ride it to visit family in the Richmond area.

Someone made an interesting comment about an AutoTrain. That could be interesting.

Posted by: damienlawrence | October 26, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse


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Posted by: infinity555 | October 26, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

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