Editorial: Local items dominate week's news

April 1, 2016

Source: Editorial | Richmond Times Dispatch

Proposed highways and intersections generate controversy. It is no surprise that plans for high(er)-speed rail have provoked contention in Hanover. Possible upgrades to the tracks include a third line through Ashland or a western route in rural patches outside town. Residents in the path of highway improvements often object; families living in the vicinity of the western route fear it would damage, if not destroy, the bucolic atmosphere they cherish. Opponents of the option packed a recent town hall sponsored by Rep. Dave Brat (R-7th) and transformed the session into an exchange on rail. The issue promises to be a hot one in Hanover for some time to come.

The Times-Dispatch long has supported high-speed rail. Amtrak’s Acela service already runs from Washington to Boston and is superior to regular trains. As the U.S. improves rail service in the northeast corridor, it is essential that Virginia be included in the plans. A high-speed network from Boston to Miami is greatly to be desired. The faster trains would pass through Virginia. Our support of high-speed does not now translate into a preference regarding the route. Sentimentality tilts us toward an Ashland option, but we would accept the western alternative. We trust the experts and want to trust the process.

Debates of this magnitude require a transparency that goes beyond basic requirements. All sides need to know that those responsible for the final decision will welcome input from contending sides. We see no bad guys in this equation. High-speed rail appears essential to Virginia’s future; we understand the concerns of households and businesses in the network’s path.

Speaking of Amtrak: We commend the sleeping-car service to New York. A nostalgia factor enhances the experience. The Silver Meteor and Silver Star might not resemble the long-distance trains of yesterday with their lounges, porters, meals served on china and linen, transcontinental poker games and “Anna Karenina” read from beginning to end (watch out), but they take passengers back to romantic times. Don’t get stung!

P.S.: The last time we boarded a sleeper, the porter greeted us by name. We fell asleep before Ashland and dozed until Philly.