The primary purpose of this blog has been to demonstrate that, from a technical point of view, the third track option through Ashland (whether at grade or in a trench) does not work. The original railroad had just one track; adding the second track a hundred years ago was a squeeze; trying to push a third track is foolish.
In my opinion the DRPT is asking the wrong question. They are asking. “How do we improve the rail service along the east corridor?” A much better question would be, “How do we improve the transportation service along the east coast corridor?” Ask a different question and you may get radically different answers.
Therefore the blog has gradually developed a second agenda: to look for engineering solutions that can perform an end-run around all of the discussions/arguments that are currently going on. Specifically, I have posted frequently regarding hyperloop technology. I continue to research this topic and I am making enough progress such that I have registered the domain HyperloopVA.com (there is no web site yet).
I am also currently preparing a 20 minute talk on hyperloop technology that aims to address the following three questions:
- Is hyperloop technology realistic?
(There are two simple engineering questions to answer: “Does it work?” and “Is it safe?”)
- Can we solve real estate problems by running the tubes down existing rights of way such as I-95?
(The insight here is that the main justification for hyperloop is not speed, it is the saving of real estate by working in three dimensions).
- Can hyperloop handle sufficient freight and passenger traffic so as to obviate the need for a third track through Ashland?
(The existing tracks would continue to be used for low value freight such as coal and for local passenger trains.)
If anyone is interested in listening to this talk let me know.
Note: At this point I do not have sufficient information to speak to the economic viability of an east coast hyperloop system. However, the fact that Sir Richard Branson chose to invest in the Hyperloop One company (now called Virgin Hyperloop One) this month is a sign that the technology is gaining commercial acceptance.