The DRPT (Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation) has issued recommendations for increased rail capacity at http://dc2rvarail.com/about/recommendations/.
Below is the the first page of the report. They have divided the 123 mile corridor into six Areas ― with Ashland being Area 5. Firm recommendations are made for each Area except for Ashland, which requires supplemental study.
The section to do with Area 5 is shown below.
The following points can be drawn from the Area 5 section of the report.
- There are seven build alternatives. These are not defined. It states that two of the seven are under consideration but does not state which they are. Four small maps are shown. Clicking on any one of these shows that they are part of a series of ten alternatives. (Originally there were three options: No Build, Third Track and Western Bypass. It is assumed that the No Build option has been dropped.)
- With regard to the undefined “Both Alternatives” there are three bullet points. They are ambiguous but do suggest that there will be no new track within the town of Ashland but that there might be “improvements” within the existing Right of Way ― which is not defined.
- Local train service from Richmond to D.C. will continue, with a stop at a new station in Ashland.
- Two station options are under consideration. The first is the 850 platform over the College Avenue crossing. This is the one that is so strongly opposed by the College. The second is south of Ashcake Rd.
- Two unidentified roadway crossings will have grade separation.
Ashland Town Council
At its scheduled December 6th 2016 meeting the Ashland Town Council adopted the following resolution.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Ashland Town Council at its regular meeting on December 6, 2016, that the Ashland Town Council strongly opposes a third track through Town, and therefore heartily endorses and supports DRPT’s recommendations made on December 6, 2016 to the CTB [Commonwealth Transportation Board] to request of the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) the ability for DRPT to conduct a separate additional study for the Ashland area while proceeding with the DC2RVA project for the remainder of the 123-mile corridor, so as to allow for additional coordination and time to study and identify a preferred alternative for rail capacity improvements in the Ashland area.
In his remarks Mayor Foley said that the study period would be around twelve months and that options such as the Buckingham Branch and a tunnel would be reconsidered.
The timing of the project, without the delays just discussed, is as follows.
- The DRPT recommendations are submitted to the FRA.
- The DRPT publishes a draft of its plan, possibly in January or February, 2017.
- This is followed by a 60 day period for public hearings.
- The FRA will make its final decision in late 2017.
- The tentative build date is the year 2026.
It appears as if we will continue with a period of uncertainty ― maybe as long as twelve months. In the meantime we need to demonstrate our continued opposition to the third track option.