The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has endorsed
a resolution to encourage
the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) to help set up daily passenger rail service between Lynchburg and New York City via Washington D.C.
Amtrak has suggested two potential routes
, one of which would travel daily between Lynchburg and New York City, via Charlottesville, Manassas and Alexandria. The other would serve the Hampton Roads area via Richmond and the Interstate 95 corridor. Either route would need State Rail Enhancement Funds for infrastructure upgrades to allow for the service, and would need to be included on VDRPT’s 2009-2014 Six Year Improvement Program.
The resolution was on the Board’s consent agenda for its May 8 meeting. Albemarle County Board Chairman
(Rivanna) said he took issue with the service being characterized as a “commuter” service.
“I don’t like that [term] tied to it, because it’s an indication we could become a bedroom community,” Boyd said. Supervisor
(Rio) said the term “commuter” is misleading. He said he knows many people who make frequent trips to the DC area, and getting them off the road would be a benefit. A survey conducted last year by the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce showed that more than two-thirds of Chamber members would choose an alternative to driving to Washington if one were available.
Before the vote on the consent agenda, Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council urged the Board to reconsider their support, and said the PEC felt the other route would provide more benefit to a more densely populated portion of the Virginia.
“We’ve long argued to the state that commuter rail and rail has to address where the population of the state lives and where it’s going to and from, and that is the I-95 corridor,” Werner said. He said the PEC is not against passenger rail for Charlottesville, but that I-95 route should be fixed first. Werner suggested that if Albemarle County wanted a commuter rail service to Washington, it should be planning now for the change in land use patterns.
“When we start to look at things like this in the Piedmont, we need to look at what does that mean. If there’s a train station that people can catch a train and go to Washington, you need to draw a circle around that train station because people will live around there, “ Werner said.
Slutzky said the cost of implementing the Lynchburg route was much lower than the I-95 route because of extra infrastructure requirements. Rooker pointed out that the City of Charlottesville has already been working on increasing the residential density around the train station, which is located on West Main Street.
(White Hall) sought one change in the resolution, to add a paragraph describing the environmental benefits of rail travel. The passed resolution included language that reads: “VDRPT has calculated the new Piedmont Corridor rail service would reduce CO2 emissions by 1500 tons per year.”
called for a work session to discuss all of the region’s rail issues, including the possibility of commuter rail to Crozet as well as a strategy to deal with an increase in freight traffic. Last week,
Butch Davies of the Commonwealth Transportation Board told the Planning and Coordination Council
that Norfolk Southern will drastically increase the amount of freight traffic in the coming years.