Town Hall attendees raise concerns over railFebruary 24, 2016
Source: Herald-Progress, Ashland
A packed out Town Hall meeting hosted by Congressman Dave Brat, R-7th inside the Hanover County administration building saw a majority of attendees express concern about the impact that a proposed high-speed rail could have on their homes and farmland.
The proposal would see Richmond and Washington connected via a high-speed rail line in order to eventually become part of a nationwide high-speed intercity rail plan. While many members of the Feb. 17 forum said that their questions came as a result of being kept in the dark about the project — Brat himself appeared to be equally uninformed.
“I don’t know about this railroad,” he said in response to one of the first of many public questions regarding the rail. “I’ve been told it’s going to be an issue but that’s all I’ve got.”
Bucky Stanley — Chair of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors — took to the stage following a wave of rail related questions in an effort to assist Brat and respond to the public concern.
“The Board of Supervisors has not been versed on this issue. It is a federal project and they have gotten some funding just to do some survey work,” he said.
Stanley added that while there are no concrete plans regarding the implementation of a high-speed rail, there are three options that are currently being evaluated.
“There are three options — through the town of Ashland, west of Ashland or no project at all,” he said. A wave of applause followed the mention of the third option for no rail at all.
According to the proposed rail’s website — dc2rvarail.com, the high-speed rail between Richmond and Washington would exist as part of the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) project; a transportation effort to extend the high-speed rail passenger services along the east coast.
The project is currently funded by three sources, the largest of which is a Federal Railroad Administration high-speed rail grant, which has contributed to 80 percent of the overall funding. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is contributing 15 percent while international transportation company CSXT is funding the remaining five percent.
During the town hall, Brat asked the attendees to demonstrate interest or opposition for the high-speed rail via a show of hands — no hands were raised in support of the proposal while a majority of hands were raised to oppose the project.
Some concerns were calmed however, with many residents under the impression that plans for the rail had already gone ahead — a notion both Brat and Stanley assured the crowd was not the case.
Following the town hall session, Ashland resident David Gendron said he was glad he attended as the meeting assured him that no action had yet been taken.
“I’m glad the Congressman came. We thought this was already concrete as we were not really notified about it,” he said.
Mike Pintz, also an Ashland resident, said that he was concerned about the apparent lack of knowledge on Brat’s part.
“One thing that concerned me is that people at the town hall knew more about [the proposed rail] than the delegate,” he said.
“Why did it get into the papers without the elected officials knowing about it?”
However, after the town hall session Brat said that a lot of the confusion could be chalked up to him not being the right representative to answer questions about the rail, adding that it is important that he conveyed “who is in charge politically.”
“There is just an infinite number of issues that you have on your plate, so I knew the transportation rail was going to be an issue tonight but the state actors are in charge of that issue,” he said.
“So the feds dole out the money, but the states are in charge of it. So I know at the end of the day the state is going to be in charge of it, I don’t have a federal role in that piece.”