Board of Supervisors: Transcript of Remarks

Train Ashland VA

As noted in the post Board of Supervisors Meeting I plan on saying a few words at the Citizen’s Input section on July 27th. A White Paper that provides detail was sent to the supervisors about two weeks ago. A transcript of my spoken remarks is available here and is reproduced below.


Transcript of Remarks to Hanover Board of Supervisors
July 27th 2016

My name is Ian Sutton, 712 S. Center St., Ashland. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon.

I write a blog at about the High Speed Rail project. My first post was published on Christmas Eve of last year. Since then I have written 68 posts.

My goal was, and remains, to demonstrate that the concept of running a third rail through the town of Ashland is unacceptable. I believe that I have achieved that goal — in the White Paper that I sent to the Board two weeks ago I point out that this option is demonstrably unsafe and that it appears to be in violation of code. There are other objections, of course, not the least of which is the immense damage that would be done to the town’s cultural heritage.

I have recently been asked to look into the broader issues that affect all of western Hanover — not just the town of Ashland.

As I think more about situation I suggest that we step back and look at the project in perspective. Doing so may help us come up with a solution that benefits not just the people of Hanover but also DRPT and CSX.

First, we need to understand that there are, in fact, three projects, each with its own goals, schedules and budgets. Which is why citizens of Hanover tend to become confused as to what is going on.

The first project — True High Speed Rail with bullet trains all the way from Boston to Miami — is still in the conceptual stage. When it will happen and what it will look like is anyone’s guess. But it is not going away.

The second project, the current third rail proposal, is in my judgement, somewhat of an embarrassment. The average speed of a train from RVA to DC would increase from 45.1 mph to 52.5 mph and punctuality would improve. But do such minor upgrades justify all the upheaval that is going on?

The third project is increased freight capacity, as illustrated by the Virginia Avenue tunnel expansion in D.C. and the Rocky Mountain hub in North Carolina. I am currently communicating with CSX management to try and improve my understanding of their goals and strategy.

I started by saying that I am trying to find a solution to these issues that will satisfy all the residents of the Ashland area, and also DRPT and CSX. The only way I can see of doing this is to drop the second project — the third rail option, and to jump straight to the first project: true High Speed Rail.

What I observe is that, from the beginning, we have allowed DRPT to control the narrative — they provide some options and we challenge them. But I suggest that we work with them, recognizing that they have legitimate goals, to come up with more imaginative solutions.

In the White Paper I make one such suggestion (I am sure that there are many others). I note that “High Speed Rail” is not modern, it has been around since the 1950s. Since then railway technology has made great strides. The concept of “hyperloop trains”, for example, reduce RVA to DC passenger journey times from 2 hours 20 minutes to 20 minutes. The system is light (no locomotive, no track, no wheels) so it could be built along the I-95 corridor for less money and with much less disruption than old-fashioned, so-called High Speed Rail. And it would not be subject to gradient limitations that are such a critical feature of all existing proposals.

This technology is surprisingly mature — it is not science fiction.

Now, I recognize that discussions to do with new railway technology are way outside the scope of the normal activities of the Hanover Board of Supervisors. Therefore, in my White Paper I suggest that we form a task force of professionals that would advise the Board and the community in general on topics such as these.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you.



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