Virginia, North Carolina Ahead on Regional Rail

April 13, 2016

Source: Peter Galuska | Style Weekly Richmond

Virginia and North Carolina have their act together trying to improve passenger railroad service, but the rest of the Southeast needs to do better, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. 

“North Carolina and Virginia have been lone wolves in the wilderness for many years trying to make progress on the Southeast passenger rail front, but they’re not going to save the region alone,” he said.

“Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. and other key stakeholders must join together,” said Foxx, who is a former mayor of Charlotte. The Southeast will grow by 13 million people and will see much more rail freight by 2045, he notes. 

Virginia seems on track for a high-speed rail connection between Richmond and Washington by 2025. Such a system could reduce travel time from two hours and 45 minutes to 90 minutes.

For that to happen, improvements are needed such as a third rail line, better car crossing stops, and rail lines that are straightened out to avoid curves.

There are plenty of problems to overcome. Last week, some 200 people turned out to a meeting in Hanover County to address the problems of changing rail traffic patterns. Some residents in Ashland say there isn’t enough space to add a third rail line next to the two that already cut through downtown. Other local residents say that their property values will be hurt if a high-speed rail line is built west of Ashland.

Another problem is getting through CSX Transportation’s Acca yard in Richmond, which is one of the busiest on the East Coast. Amtrak plans to bypass it.