The following is from Kristin Reihl, our representative on the Citizen Committee.
On Wednesday, December 6 the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) unanimously adopted a resolution supporting option 5A (the 3-2-3 option) through the Ashland/Hanover portion of the DC2RVA corridor. The resolution includes language intended to limit property acquisition along the tracks in Ashland and protect property and operations at Randolph-Macon College. The resolution by the CTB is a recommendation to the Federal Railroad Administration who will make the ultimate decision on the track improvements throughout the 123 mile DC2RVA corridor.
Town staff have compiled a substantial resource page at http://www.ashlandva.gov/505/DC2RVA-Information where you can review video and minutes from DC2RVA related meetings as well as various resolutions, letters and studies published by interested parties. Please contact Town Manager, Joshua Farrar at (804) 798-9219 or Jfarrar@ashlandva.gov if you have questions.
This blog started out by providing technical analysis of the proposed Ashland third rail. The intent was to show that trying to squeeze a third rail through town — whether at grade or in a trench — is not feasible from an engineering point of view.
But what has happened in the two years that we have been blogging is that it is becoming increasingly obvious (a) that the transportation business is in turmoil as new technology advances very quickly, and (b) authorities such as DRPT and the CTB have not considered how these changes could apply to their proposed high-speed rail project.
As an example of how fast things are changing, just a few days ago a small company called Fisker announced that it has filed for patents for solid-state batteries. Here is what they claim.
- They have an energy density 2.5 times that found in batteries used in current electric cars, such as Tesla. This would give an automobile a range of 500 miles.
- The batteries can be recharged in as little as a minute.
- They are much safer than conventional batteries.
Evidently, Toyota is working on similar technology and hopes to release it by the year 2022.
Are these claims realistic or are they hype? Well, there is certainly some hype. For example, if they really did try to recharge the battery in a minute they would need huge cables and the heat created would probably melt down everything in sight. But the essential point is that our transportation agencies and the railroad companies need to be paying very close attention to all these changes in technology. It is all happening very quickly.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board held a meeting on November 11th at Randolph-Macon college to discuss the Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The discussion was for the whole corridor — not just the Ashland/Hanover section.
Here are a few notes:
- 3,350 comments were submitted during the Tier II EIS comment period— over half were from the Ashland/Hanover area.
- They are recommending the 3-2-3 option: 3 tracks to north of Vaughan Rd. and three tracks south of Ashcake Rd., with two tracks running through town.
- Overpass bridges would be installed at Vaughan and at Ashcake.
- There was some discussion about installing fences along the track.
- There have been many management changes at CSX but it is not known how they might affect the project.
- There is no funding for the project.
- Various people stressed the role that new technology might play in the project — specifically hyperloop and deep bore tunnels.