Valentine: Money for 2nd Lynchburg-D.C. rail service may be near - TransDominion Express


Valentine: Money for 2nd Lynchburg-D.C. rail service may be near

By Ray Reed

Published by the News & Advance

A possible source of funds could be announced next week for new daily train service between Lynchburg and Washington, D.C., Del. Shannon Valentine told members of the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.

Such an announcement would move a second daily Amtrak route, which has been discussed publicly by state government officials for at least two years, one step closer to reality for Lynchburg.

Currently, 20 to 30 people per day in Lynchburg ride Amtrak’s Crescent train to Washington and sometimes New York. When trains are added to such a route, more riders normally are attracted to use it, Amtrak has told the state’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

The department issued a report Nov. 17 that identified the Lynchburg-Washington route, along with a route between Richmond and Washington, as the state’s top priorities for new passenger rail service.

That report said $17 million would be needed to subsidize trains on the two routes, and the routes would be demonstration projects lasting three years.

The report did not say where the money could be found.

However, new information about funding sources will be presented on Dec. 17 to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the state’s policy-making body for highways, rail and ports.

The CTB presentation “includes the resource allocation plan,” said Jennifer Pickett, public information officer for the state’s rail agency, or DRPT. The resources include an expected $268 million in state revenues dedicated to capital projects for rail lines over the next six years.

The CTB and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine control those state funds.

Valentine, D-Lynchburg, said she couldn’t provide details, but “I do think we have some hopeful news.”

“There is going to be an announcement, and I can’t tell you what it is going to say,” Valentine said, but she dropped several hints.

“The two top priorities have been identified” and one is the I-95 corridor and one is the U.S. 29 corridor, she said.

Enhancements to the routes also would come from Norfolk Southern Corp., which owns the tracks, and from Amtrak, along with possible help from localities, Valentine said. “This is everyone chipping into this process,” she said.

Charlottesville and Culpeper would be among localities served by the train.

The railroad’s most profitable north-south freight route is the U.S. 29 corridor, and improvements there would benefit both passenger trains and NS container trains.

“They are very interested in us having the enhancements we need to get passenger rail service,” Valentine said. The railroads, and not Amtrak, would continue to control trains’ timing and schedules.

“It is the first leg of the Trans-Dominion Express,” a proposed passenger-rail route that also would extend from Bristol through Roanoke and Lynchburg to Richmond, Valentine added.

Rex Hammond of the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce said the statewide aspect of the plan was important.

“We don’t want to be a cul de sac” with a train route ending in a Lynchburg rail yard, Hammond said.

If the plans for passenger rail failed to include other cities, the state’s decision-makers would find it “too easy to walk away,” Hammond said.

Lynchburg City Council included the Trans-Dominion Express on its priority list for state legislators’ support, said Turner Perrow, a council member.

Valentine said rail service is a big piece of the region’s economic future.

“As we build this new highway of rail in Virginia, and as rail becomes more of a transportation solution from the federal government, it is very important that Central Virginia and Southwest Virginia are on that map,” she said.

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