Notes of meeting with DRPT

DeLille-Burch-Stock-small

Bob DeLille, Carey Burch, Emily Stock

On February 4th the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) held a public meeting to discuss the status of the High Speed Rail project. My notes are shown below. (The images shown are scanned from a handout. We hope to receive higher quality images that we can use to upgrade this post.)

Please feel free to add your own comments and additional information.

Thank you.

Ian Sutton

UPDATE: a .pdf file of the presentation can be downloaded here. The images are of better quality than those shown in this post.

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Location: Ashland Town Hall
Date/Time: February 4th 2016. 6:00 p.m.
Attending:

  • Bob DeLille (chair)
  • Danny Plaugher, Director, Virginians for High Speed Rail
  • Emily Stock, Manager of Rail Planning, DRPT
  • Megan Hunter, DRPT
  • Carey Burch, Deputy Project Manager, DRPT
  • Charles Hartrgrove, Manager, Town of Ashland
  • Pete Burrus, Chief of Rail, Virginia Department of Transportation
  • Randy Marcus, CSX Transportation, Resident Vice President – Virginia
  • approximately 30 citizens from the Town of Ashland

The meeting adjourned at 7:15 p.m.

Our thanks to the Town of Ashland for allowing the use of the Town Hall for this meeting.

Overview
Ms. Stock introduced her organization, http://www.dc2rvarail.com/, what it does and how it works with State and Federal agencies, CSX and Norfolk Southern. She explained how some of the activities, such as Tier 1 studies, have already been completed.

The schedule is shown below. It indicates that a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is due at the end of 2016, with a Record of Decision by mid-2017.

Schedule

The agency goes through a four-stage screening process. Stage I is complete; they are now at Stage II. In Stage I they were looking for ‘Fatal Flaws’.

Note: If a property is on the National Register of Historic Places then that option is considered to have a ‘Fatal Flaw’. Evidently Ashland is not an Historic Place and the third track through town option would not result in the destruction of a building so designated. Hence the ‘Fatal Flaw’ criterion was not met.

Comments Received
There have been three comment periods. The number of comments to date are:

  • November 2014: 1625
  • June 2015: 189
  • January 2016 (so far): 410

Central Section
Mr. Burch presented information to do with the Ashland options. The following are under consideration:

  • No Build — maintain the current two tracks with minor improvements and no operational changes
  • Add a Third Track through Ashland
  • Construct a double track bypass to the west of Ashland, with no change to the existing track

The eastern bypass and the use of the I-95 corridor options are no longer under consideration. (They were screened out in Tier 1.)

No Build
This option would cause no local disruption. However, given the anticipated increases in the volume of both freight and passenger traffic it would likely cause congestion in other parts of the system.

Western Bypass
This involves building a new, two-track section with no change to the tracks though Ashland. All CSX and Amtrak expresses would use this track. The existing track through Ashland would be for stopping passenger trains only, with the possibility of a much more frequent service.

Third Track
DRPT has developed the following options: two at-grade, two below grade and one elevated.

At Grade
The at-grade options are shown in the next two pictures. Both would lead to major disruption and loss of street access for businesses and homes on Railroad Ave./Center St.

 

at-grade-2
at-grade-1

Below Grade
There are also two below grade options, as shown. One is a tunnel; the other a trench.

tunnel
trench

Note: Both of these options and the elevated options would require that a temporary line be constructed around Ashland while construction is under way.

Elevated Option
This option is shown in the picture below.

elevated

Additional Comments
Mr. Hartgrove handed out copies of the letter from the Town of Ashland. Mr. Plaugher stated that his organization favors the bypass option.

Conclusion
It was made clear that public comments are an important component of the overall decision process. Therefore it behooves us to keep those comments flowing.

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5 thoughts on “Notes of meeting with DRPT

  1. As a concerned citizen, I attended this meeting and again, do not see any Town benefit. Right now they say the “best” alternative is a west of Town by-pass, but I am still not clear why the CSX track to the east is in the Tier 1 phase and not even being explored further. If construction has to be done then so be it, it has to be done anyway. Let’s fast forward a few years and Amtrak non-express through Town is cancelled due to lack of interest. The tracks through Town will not be maintained in this scenario so again, we lose. These people say historic areas will not be touched but then they re-define historic area and we are not in their definition!?!??! Lastly, economically the downtown area and homes along the tracks will reduce in appeal and value. What are our legal alternatives to the railroad right-of-way and the detrimental impact on Ashland? I realize it’s about the money for them but how many riders are they losing now without it? How many are using the current system? I got the impression from the meeting that since the topic was not welcome they had to leave after 1 hour,15 minutes instead of answering comment/questions. There are many questions without answers .

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    1. Lou Ann:

      Thanks for your comment. The purpose of this report was simply to report on what took place, without inserting any of my own opinions. But, needless to say, I do have some opinions.

      You raise some good points. Specifically, the eastern bypass option seems to have been brushed aside without proper explication as to why it was so summarily rejected. Ditto for the I-95 corridor option. If the response is that it is “too costly” then what are the cost-benefit criteria being used? What is the dollar value of having an attractive Civil War town torn apart? The ‘Historic Area’ response raises the same concern.

      I am less concerned about them not maintaining the existing tracks should the western track be installed. We have heard very little from CSX in all of these discussions but, after all, they are the ones who own the tracks. The concept that all CSX trains and all express Amtrak trains will use the new bypass and that only local passenger trains will use the existing tracks seems hardly credible. Apart from slightly reduced journey times CSX gains nothing. My assumption is that CSX will view the new system as being a single four-track entity — they will run their trains on whatever tracks make the most sense at the time.

      What much of this boils down to is that we have been provided with virtually no documentation for the Stage I phase of the project that is now complete. Yet there must be a ‘Stage 1 Report’. I would very much like to see that document so that I could analyze it with a very sharp pencil.

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  2. I agree with Lexi, why wasn’t anyone within a mile radius of the west of Ashland phase notified? Property values will fall for all of the owners. Seems to me that this west of Ashland phase was shoved thru the back door. So sad! It hits the Richmond paper on Monday and they were out surveying on Monday, hmmmm? So many unanswered questions . I have land owners calling me saying they are on their property surveying and they knew nothing about it, did they pick and choose who got letters? I also have land owners calling me crying that this thing will go in their front yards of homes/property that have been in their families for over hundreds of years.

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