Rail remains in analysis stage

February 24, 2016

Source: Logan Barry | Herald-Progress, Ashland

At a Town Hall forum hosted by Congressman Dave Brat R-7th last Wednesday; residents of Ashland and Hanover clearly opposed a proposed high-speed rail that would connect Washington to Richmond.

The concerns at the Town Hall session ranged from anger at the project — to fear that it was already underway, however Manager for Rail Planning at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), Emily Stock, said that the proposal’s status is still in the analysis stage. Stock leads the commonwealth’s southeast high-speed rail corridor and is a direct leader of the DC2RVA high-speed rail proposal.

The state agency, which is currently drafting an environmental impact statement, is assessing conditions in Ashland’s section of the corridor and testing them to determine what kind of impacts it would have.

Looking at the two options that involve building the high-speed rail — either a rail that goes through Ashland where the current tracks run down Center Street, or a bypass of the town via the west of Ashland —Stock explained that the decision to go a particular route will be based off of the tests.

“We’ll be doing a service development plan for the entire corridor and we’ll be testing the different alternatives that we have to see what types of advantages we can get in terms of service,” she said.

“In addition, there’s that service side of this, and then there’s also the environmental side of it. So while that kind of testing is going on, we are also going to be reviewing cultural and natural resources.”

Tests will be conducted for both rail options and Stock said that the aforementioned Bucky Stanley

environmental features and resources would also be tested to see what the impact would be if the proposals were to be constructed in or around Ashland.

These tests have been going on since 2014 and she mentioned that the data they’ve collected so far is what’s being recommended in the draft they have coming out of their environmental impact statement. The draft will officially be issued in the fall of this year and will be available online with an option for public comment.

In determining their decision, DRPT will be looking at how each option will impact rail uses, land uses and environmental resources.

“We have an idea of what might work — of what’s feasible — to improve rail performance; but we want to make sure the alternatives would work and we want to find out how they stack up against one another,” Stock said.

She explained how DRPT are looking into how well the trains would be able to perform as well as the impacts they could have on the people of the community and the environment. The final draft will contain the results of that analysis.

Stock emphasized that they take the public’s voice seriously and the comments that come in will be incorporated into the final draft.

Board of Supervisors Chair, Bucky Stanley —who represents the Beaverdam District — said that he would call a public meeting to take place in the near future.

A date for the public meeting has yet to be set officially, but Stanley mentioned it would be occurring within the next several weeks.

Stanley also said that he plans to invite representatives from the state to speak on the matter. He said residents living in either area would still have reasonable concerns, adding, “it’s going to affect those properties lining the tracks.”