A Message from TDX Chairman, French Moore, Jr. - TransDominion Express


A Message from TDX Chairman, French Moore, Jr.

During the Warner administration we made great progress with the active support of Transportation Secretary Clement and former Director Rae of the VA Dept.of Rail & Public Transportation (VDRPT). Change of administration coupled with the decision by House leadership at the 2006 General Assembly to sideline legislation related to transportation or potential bonding has thrown us into a crisis situation. Here are the regrettable facts, as we are currently experiencing them.

  • Governor Kaine used the TDX initiative as part of his campaign platform, but that support has not been as actively translated as before, with some possible reasons. It took several months to replace Director Rae, and George Conner as Director of Rail. Now, those positions have been filled by Director Matthew Tucker and Kevin Page (promoted to Rail Director), but the agency is involved in an assessment addressing policies of the agency and changes in the Rail Enhancement Fund application process, consuming available man hours and focus.
  • Prior to the 2006 General Assembly, a meeting with Secretary Pierce Homer for permission to purchase the five VRE rail cars (for the TDX Demo project), with money already set aside for TDX capital expenses, culminated in a new requirement to first create a governing body. The TDX Committee applied for and was granted corporate non-profit status, and during the 2006 session, worked with Sen. John Edwards on a bill to create the TransDominion Express Authority, a statewide governing body. VDRPT and  a coalition of other rail and business advocates supported the bill.
  • The Senate passed it unanimously.
  • In the House, party leadership took the bill hostage, voting to send it back into committee (after the committee had adjourned for the session). All delegates of the other party and several of the leading party voted in favor of the bill. But, House leadership wished to make a statement regarding transportation, bonding, and other funding mechanisms, and refused to allow floor votes on this and other transportation-related initiatives, as they wrangled over the two-year budget.
  • A meeting with VDRPT this November revealed that because we failed to create the Authority, the administration would not work to release the money for purchase of the rail cars, effectively killing the TDX Demo project.
  • The TDX Board has identified two critical legislative moves that must be made to save the TDX, and it has begun working with Delegate Shannon Valentine to put together a bi-cameral, bi-partisan coalition to sponsor them.
  • Delegate Valentine has met with Legislative Services to redraft and update last year’s bill. A number of legislators are being contacted for co-sponsorship.
  • Wiley Mitchell, of the Rail Advisory Board offered to craft legislation to amend the requirement for a 30% match for applicants of the Rail Enhancement Funds. The 30% match effectively removes from competition small and start-up projects like the TDX.
  • The litany of set-backs suffered by the combination of an unwilling legislature to fund transportation, in general, the lack of a state and federal rail policy, the “newness” of the worthiness of passenger rail in planning and funding for economic, environmental, and transportation strengths, and the lack of stable commitment from an administration which turns over every four years has caused many supporters to lose sight of the need for sustained contributions in the uphill endeavor.
  • Voluntary contributions have dropped off each consecutive year, often with the complaint that they are still not seeing a train rolling down the tracks.
  • The Lynchburg Regional Chamber can no longer support the project as it has in the past, dedicating a large portion of a staff member’s workload to TDX.
  • Although the position of full-time Executive Director has been offered to that staff person, there is no money for salary or benefits, meaning she probably will not be available to lobby in Richmond, as in the past several years.
  • Although the TDX applied for two grants, totaling more than $300,000, they remain in limbo and the TDX does not have money enough to continue, even into the 2007 General Assembly.

As you can see, we have much yet to do, much to be gained for the communities to be directly served; for the whole of Virginia in opening up job creation, tourism, and transportation options; for the nation as the TDX will serve as a feeder system for the Atlantic high speed rail corridor. But, we have run out of funds and have a critical need to raise a great deal of money very quickly. If we can raise just $60,000 in the next few weeks, we might retain our executive director and start working in earnest, on a daily basis, to effect needed legislation and policy at all government levels. And there will be someone in place to put in the hours needed for multiple grant applications to keep the needed funds coming in.

Websites, reports, newsletters, visitations, travel involved with lobbying, and monitoring legislation and rail initiatives, development, execution, and distribution of marketing/educational materials all require massive man hours and reasonable expenses. There is much to be said for volunteer board members and community activists. But, without the pack mule and the focused worker bee, nothing of this magnitude can hope to become reality.

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