By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Monday, February 8, 2010

Albemarle County Supervisor

Duane Snow

has called for further study of a light rail system to connect Crozet, Charlottesville and the regional airport.

“It seems like there’s money in the federal budget to explore something like this right now,” Snow said at a meeting last Wednesday. “I think a light rail system in conjunction with the rails that are already there can be installed a lot cheaper than bridges or an extra lane of traffic.”

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Snow said the idea of was brought up by many citizens while he campaigned last year, and that he personally would prefer to take a train rather than a bus. He wanted to direct staff to explore potential funding opportunities.

However, the idea is not a new one in the community. The Board of Supervisors

voted to endorse the concept of such a train last April



Ann Mallek

said the

CHART Committee

has been studying the concept of rail between Staunton and Zion’s Crossroads for a number of years, and has learned many valuable lessons.

“Light rail cars are not allowed to share the track with freight,” Mallek said. She said the committee has been working with the Buckingham Branch Railroad to operate passenger transit using heavier cars, but the insurance premiums would be prohibitive at $600,000 a year. That would be in addition to any operating costs.

Download the 2004 study of light rail

The MPO Tech Committee prepared a report in 2004 which examined the possibility of a light rail network in Charlottesville


Dennis Rooker

said a 2004 study prepared by the

MPO Community Mobility Committee

explored the possibility, but that in order to qualify for federal grants the community would need more people.

“You have to have very significant population density in order to make light rail anywhere near economic,” Rooker said. He said the federal government is more interested in connecting major cities along the coasts, and would prefer that staff time not be used to explore the concept.


Rodney Thomas

, who served on the MPO Tech Committee as an Albemarle Planning Commissioner, agreed with Rooker about the area’s lack of density but suggested planning for the future could begin now.

“Now is the time to start laying the groundwork for it,” Thomas said. “I think it’s something we really need to continue to look at [as a region].”

After the brief discussion at their meeting Wednesday, the board did not reach consensus to take any further steps to pursue passenger rail proposals.


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