Questions Regarding Comments Follow High-speed Rail MeetingApril 27, 2016
Source: Herald Progress, Ashland
At an April 4 public meeting organized by Hanover County that took place at Patrick Henry High School (PHHS), Hanover residents listened to an informational presentation by Emily Stock, Manager of Rail Planning for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).
The meeting followed an outcry of public confusion regarding the status of the high-speed rail (known as DC2RVA rail) that’s proposed to be built to connect Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Virginia.
During her presentation at the public meeting, Stock mentioned that comments made to DC2RVA would only be entered into the study when they are made during the “comment period.” The study she was referring to is called an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
Stocks’ directions for submitting comments raise the question; what happens to comments made outside of this period?
Michelle Tobin, one of the directors for the local organization, Families Under The Rail, asked the same question and said she had yet to have much luck at obtaining a concrete answer.
“Our next move is to attend the Hanover Board of Supervisors meeting this Wednesday at 6 p.m.,” Tobin said. “We’re hoping that the County will state its position regarding the high-speed rail.”
The Hanover Board of Supervisors have scheduled “to consider” a resolution to the project at this meeting, according to the agenda provided by the county website. The agenda also stated that they are rescinding the County Administrator’s original alternatives and the new Ashland minor upgrade alternative.
Additionally, it also said that the County “seeks to partner with citizens of Hanover County and the DRPT to identify an upgrade for the current tracks through Ashland which will result in the least disruption to the residents and businesses of the Town of Ashland.”
The Board of Supervisors meeting occurred after presstime.
Tobin said she is grateful for the support the organization has received from the County during this long process adding, “Bucky Stanley has been true to his word and very helpful with Families Under The Rail.”
In response to the question regarding the validity of comments submitted outside of the public comment period, Emily Stock, who coordinates public relations for the DRPT; outlined the commenting process in a prepared statement.
Stock said the DRPT will accept public comments at any time through the DC2RVA website and that “all comments will be reviewed and recorded into the project’s official record.”
Surrounding each round of corridor-wide public meetings, the DRPT will also be accepting comments in what the DRPT is referring to as formal comment periods. She said that comments received during these formal comment periods inform decision making tied to the specific project milestone that is being discussed at the particular meeting.
Although comments that are made between these formal comment periods are reviewed by the DRPT and entered into the project record, they are used to inform understanding of public sentiment, but are not meant to change the course of a milestone decision.
She explained how the comment period tied to the Dec. 2015 public meetings that reviewed project alternatives officially ended Jan. 8, 2016.
“Comments received Jan. 9 until the beginning of the next formal comment period are reviewed and recorded as part of the official record. However, DRPT will not be adding or eliminating alternatives carried forward into the draft EIS based on comments received after Jan. 9,” the statement read.
Stock said that the fall 2016 public meetings will be the next opportunity for the public to make formal comments to DC2RVA, and that the comments received would be used to shape the final EIS.
In the statement, Stock’s provided a list of the five different ways the public may make comments regarding the project.
The several official mechanisms for making public comment include: sending comments and questions electronically through the project website at www.DC2RVArail.com, sending them through the project email address at info@DC2RVArail.com, leaving them on the toll free hotline at (888) 832-0900, and mailing them directly to Emily Stock, DRPT Manager of Rail Planning.
The last official mechanism for making comments would be to make them during one of the last series of formal commenting periods in late 2016.
Lastly, Stock said Hanover County had provided the DRPT with the questions collected at their April 4 meeting. She said that within the next two weeks, the DRPT will put the questions into groups selected by themes, and will provide summary responses to these questions on the DC2RVA project website.
Tobin said that attending the meeting is “crucial” for residents who want to remain aware of the project’s progress.
“When it comes to attending these meetings, attending the meetings is crucial to stay on top of what’s going on in the community,” Tobin said.
To learn more about the Families Under The Rail Organization, you can visit their website at www.familiesundertherail.org, or visit their Facebook page.
More details will come about tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting.