Shown below is an open letter written by Mr. Ragan Phillips to the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), dated October 7th 2017. I fully support what he says.
October 7, 2017
TO: Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)
Commonwealth of Virginia
The proposed rail system between Washington and Richmond (DC2RVA), promoted by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and financially supported by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), represents devastation for farms and homes in western Hanover County or for homes and businesses in Ashland.
The CTB and the DRPT are poised to announce an unjustified “death sentence” on Hanover County and the community of Ashland. Whenever and wherever this rail system is built, families, farms, friendships and communities will be destroyed.
Even though the execution may be years in the future, this “sentence” defines our area as a “dead man walking.”
ETHICAL DUTY OF PUBLIC OFFICIALS
Federal and state government officials have a strong ethical duty to protect American tax –payers from improper or improvident use of our tax dollars.
This means that our tax dollars should be expended fairly and prudently. It does not mean that one element of industry or, particularly, one entity, should be the beneficiary of Federal and Commonwealth expenditures. It does not mean these expenditures should be made at the expense of the vast majority of the citizenry who receive no direct or indirect benefit.
The beneficiary of this huge multi-billion tax-payer funded project is neither the Commonwealth nor the public. THE REAL BENEFICIARY IS CSX.
ASSERTION vs. FACT
ASSERTION: The DRPT official web site states: “The purpose of this project is to provide a competitive transportation choice in the corridor by increasing intercity passenger rail capacity and improving travel times.”
FACT: Upwards of ninety percent (90%) of the railcars that will pass though the Commonwealth on this DC2RVA system will be CSX freight cars. Amtrak passengers would benefit by reducing the time for the Washington-Richmond trip by twenty minutes.
ASSERTION: The DRPT claims that this “public transportation” project, will be paid for by “federal, state and local sources.”
FACT: Sources? The DPRT has failed to advise the public that this “source” is us. Our tax dollars will underwrite CSX freight operations. In effect, the citizens of western Hanover and Ashland are being asked to write the checks for our own destruction.
ASSERTION: the DRPT publicizes this DC2RVA rail system as a “…segment of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR).”
FACT: It is, in fact, definitely not “high speed.” In actuality, DC2RVA is a huge upgrade on freight-laden rail lines primarily for the financial benefit of CSX.
A HAND IN THE TILL
To subsidize CSX, along with issuing misleading information, is certainly not an act that meets the aforementioned ethical duties of public officials.
The DC2RVA Project would allow CSX, an $11 billion revenue corporation with a $3 billion cash flow, to haul more freight at a faster pace and add to their bottom line.
The citizens of western Hanover County and the Town of Ashland must not be forced to pay for our own destruction.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has numerous essential, but under-funded, projects and institutions: affordable housing, mass public transportation, pre-school for all children, upgraded public education, and health care. Funding these needs would have a real, positive and long-term impact on the citizens of the Commonwealth.
If CSX wants this high cost upgrade of their rails, let them make the investment with their corporate resources of equity and from willing providers of debt.
In this case, public officials’ fiduciary duty is quite simple:
Invest our tax dollars to ensure a stronger Commonwealth…
not a better CSX freight line.
Ragan Phillips Phyllis Theroux
504 Duncan Street/Ashland, Virginia 23005
cc: Senator Timothy Kaine
Senator Mark Warner
Governor Terry McAuliffe