Kaine on board with Lynchburg rail agreement - TransDominion Express


Kaine on board with Lynchburg rail agreement

By Ray Reed
News & Advance

A who’s-who list of political leaders and executives filled a tent at the Kemper Street Station in Lynchburg on Wednesday to watch Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Norfolk Southern Chairman Wick Moorman sign Virginia’s first agreement to support passenger trains.

“We are entering a new era” in passenger rail service, Kaine said, adding that $8.4 billion in federal stimulus money will boost rail transit nationwide. 

General Assembly members from Charlottesville, Roanoke and Lynchburg, plus most of Lynchburg’s City Council, and Amtrak executives were among approximately 90 people who gathered on a rainy afternoon for a glimpse of what a new train to Washington will look like.

A shiny brown NS executive coach sat on the tracks where a new daily Amtrak train is to depart each morning starting in October. One Amtrak train per day already serves the route.

“We think the Commonwealth of Virginia sets the pace in terms of all the states we deal with in thinking about rail issues, both freight and passenger, in a very proactive way,” Moorman said.

The memorandum of understanding between NS and the state includes $18.5 million in state funds to operate two daily Amtrak trains for three years. Those funds come from a 2007 state tax dedicated to rail projects, and not federal stimulus dollars.

One train will go from Lynchburg to Washington, and the other from Richmond to Washington. About $1 million in improvements to Kemper Street Station are included.

Del. Shannon Valentine, D-Lynchburg, said in introductory remarks that “we owe so much of this to the vision and leadership of Governor Kaine.”

Kaine complimented Valentine for persistently following the project’s progress with the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, said Valentine has “never given up” on the new train. 

Newman also thanked state Sen. William Wampler, R-Bristol, for helping bring the train to Lynchburg as the first leg of a statewide passenger service that rail advocates call the TransDominion Express. Its goal is to create passenger service from Bristol to Richmond, via Roanoke and Lynchburg.

Newman worked with Wampler behind the scenes during this year’s General Assembly session to keep the TDX on track.

“We are not going to let that dream die,” Kaine said.

Newman said the train would help Lynchburg economically. “There are companies in this area that will benefit greatly,” including the Areva nuclear company, he said.

Also speaking briefly at the signing were Del. David Toscano, R-Charlottesville, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, Del. William Fralin, R-Roanoke, and Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County. Deeds is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor.

A group of sign-carrying protesters stood along the station’s railing above the trackside ceremonies with messages urging Kaine to reverse a smoking-in-restaurants ban the General Assembly approved this year.

“Kaine please help small bars,” read a sign carried by Mary Abbott, owner of Mary Jane’s Café, which faces the station on Kemper Street. She’s been there since 1971, Abbott said.

“Ninety-five percent of my customers smoke,” Abbott said, and the smoking ban could force her to close the business.

“Why would you put a small business out of business in this economy?” asked Jerry Golding, a customer in Abbott’s café.

Abbott said she hoped Kaine would amend the bill to exempt small bars.

However, Kaine signed the smoking ban March 9 at a Virginia Beach restaurant event. The ban applies to nearly all restaurants, except for private clubs and restaurants with a designated smoking room that is separated and independently ventilated from non-smoking areas.


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