First CAC Meeting: Notes

High speed rail Ashland VA

The DRPT held its first Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meeting yesterday. A video recording of the meeting will be published at their site. Here are a few informal first impressions based on my notes.

  • The committee was made up of representatives from the Town of Ashland, western Hanover, Randolph-Macon College and CSX.
  • The DRPT team made a series of presentations that gave an overview of the project, why it is needed, and what the constraining parameters might be.
  • It was stressed that the purpose of the project was to improve the reliability, frequency and travel times of passenger trains along the north-eastern corridor. In particular to improve the current reliability from 66% to 90% and to roughly double the number of passenger trains.
  • A secondary goal is not to adversely impact CSX operations. (It was noted that CSX traffic is likely to increase due to the port of Virginia expansion at around 2% per annum.)
  • They are planning on double-stacked trains that could be up to 15,000 ft. (3 miles) long.
  • CSX will continue to own the existing track and will also own any new track. CSX will continue to dispatch all trains.
  • An overview of the Basis of Design was presented. It discussed curves and gradients but did not provide information to do with (1) code for spacing between tracks, (2) code for spacing from the outer edge of the tracks to the first public access, and (3) whether the existing tracks will be upgraded to modern standards. (A figure of 135 ft. for a new Right of Way was provided.)
  • The height of new bridges will be sufficient to allow for electric passenger trains in future.
  • The current speed restrictions through Ashland are 35 mph for freight and 45 mph for passenger. On other sections of the track these numbers are 59 mph and 65 mph respectively.
  • The replacement of jointed rail with welded rail will reduce noise and vibration.
  • All tracks (old and new) are to be inter-operable for both passenger and freight.
  • VA law requires that all new crossings be not at grade.
  • The various options that we have seen in previous meetings were presented. There was also discussion to do with eastern (Buckingham Branch) options. It appears as if linking BB and CSX trains in the Richmond Main St. area will be a challenge.
  • Two options for underground track were presented. One would be a cut-and-cover tunnel, the other would be a deep bore. No discussion of the impact of construction vibration on old homes with weak foundations was provided.
  • They are still carrying out operations modeling with the FRA.
  • Future meeting dates are shown below. Locations have yet to be decided upon.
    • June 26th
    • July 24th
    • August 28th
    • September 25th
    • October 16th (if needed)

To repeat: these are my first impression notes. We will be able to analyze the presentations more thoroughly when the video is published.

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