Letter to Editor: Increased rail service requires plannning

March 9, 2016

Source: Calvin Lucy, Jr | Richmond times Dispatch

Your editorial “Transparency” concerning Rep. Dav Brat’s Ashland town hall meeting about high-speed rail routing was interesting, informative and educational. The “do-nothings” won, making the right decision for the wrong reasons. Increased-speed passenger rail service should never be on existing freight rail lines, should never have a grade crossing and should be designed to connect only primary transportation hubs (Washington/Richmond/Raleigh). Existing local passenger trains should service these hubs from Ashland, Petersburg, etc.

With today’s emphasis on speed (email, texting, UPS, the Web) there will have to be two classes of rail service, express and local — locals still utilizing freight lines and the express lines being exclusive. The participants missed the now-evident answer to a second major question — the planned speed of this new “express” rail line. At 90 mph, it is simply higher-speed, not true high-speed (150 mph).

The not-in-my-backyard group won out as always.

Routing was the major concern of the Ashland participants. Prudent economic planning should solve that problem by the immediate selection of a separate and unique express right-of-way, engineered for the inevitable true high-speed service from Washington to Richmond and beyond. The routing from Washington should go west of and parallel to Interstate 95 south, there joining the old C&O east/west passenger route, crossing elevated over the CSX tracks (now grade) at Doswell and paralleling that old C&O route onto the elevated tracks into Richmond’s Main St. Station hub.

Selective enhancement/improvement of the old Seaboard/ACL tracks through Acca Yards to the Main St. Station hub, and from Main St. Station to the Petersburg/Ettrick area, would speed up local feeds from both north and south to the Main St. hub. Relocation of Richmond’s Staples Mill station closer to central Richmond (the old Kline Car factory at the Greyhound terminal on Boulevard) would be an area plus.

Calvin T. Lucy Jr.