CTB Meetings: November 1st – Details

Germanna Community College

One of our Ashland neighbors has provided the following additional information to do with the meetings on November 1st.

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11:00 am Ashland Theater, OPEN TO THE PUBLIC – CTB and DRPT will be giving a presentation on High Speed Rail and their visit to Ashland. Then, Jim Foley, R-MC President Lindgren and a representative from the County will briefly speak (5 minutes each.) Next there will be a Q&A between the CTB and Town and County representatives… there will be NO PUBLIC COMMENT.

The group of officials will then walk from Lee Street (Library) north to College Ave where they will ride a bus up Center to Ashcake to check out a potential new rail station location. Then, as I understand it, they will drive along the Western Bypass route before leaving for their 4:00 meeting in Fredericksburg.

Let’s show them how much we love our Town… Come to the meeting at the Ashland Theater, beautify your properties for them to see, be out and about Town during their visit and please come to Fredericksburg for public comments during CTB meeting!

Commonwealth Transportation Board Meeting

Tuesday, November 1 @ 4:00

Germanna Community College,
Center for Workforce Development and Community Education
10000 Germanna Point Drive
Fredericksburg, VA 22408

There are already a few people planning on attending/speaking at this meeting, so if you would like to car pool contact kjamkjam at comcast dot net.

If anyone has questions, you can contact Jim Foley jfoley@town.ashland.va.us or Kathy Abbott kabbott@town.ashland.va.us or Josh Farrar (Acting Town Manager)  jfarrar@town.ashland.va.us

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If you are planning on speaking at the Fredericsksburg meeting I suggest that you coordinate your comments with Jim Foley or Kathy Abbot.

 

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National News

tgv-1
A French TGV

Our little town of Ashland is making it to the national level. On September 23rd 2016 the Washington Post published A railroad town that doesn’t want another train.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • Railroading has built Ashland, 15 miles north of Richmond, dating to the 1840s. But now it threatens to destroy it.
  • One proposal would add a third track right through Ashland’s downtown where there’s hardly room. Grade crossings in the area may be closed. Shop customers and residents wouldn’t have the same freedom to walk across the tracks they do now. Some of Ashland’s finest homes face the tracks and would be endangered.
  • Ashland is hiring Williams Mullen, an influential Richmond law firm, to fight the third rail. Randolph-Macon College, whose leafy campus would be split by two 850-foot-long elevated passenger stands and a parking lot, has signed up McGuire Woods, another blue-chip Richmond law firm. It isn’t known yet if the western bypass players will follow suit.
  • Some feel squeezed by big inside players such as CSX, Amtrak and state and federal bureaucrats. They control the bureaucratic process in which the 17-member Commonwealth Transportation Board will make a final recommendation after state and federal officials complete their assessments, including routes and costs.
  • One option that would let many off the hook is using a short-line railroad trunk line to bypass Ashland to the east. But in 2002, bureaucrats took that off the table, saying it was too disruptive and expensive. Still, some Ashland residents see it as a solution to ease community tensions.

3-2-3: A Code Violation

Third track through Ashland
Third track through Ashland

Let me start with a short anecdote.

Early in my career I was appointed lead engineer on a project for a chemical plant in Texas. The project was to take a small unit operation consisting of a distillation column, two heat exchangers and a pump and to adapt it for a new service. Here are the parameters:

  • The equipment had been built and installed in the 1940s.
  • Since then it had operated safely and efficiently with no incidents.
  • The equipment did not comply with the latest pressure vessel and heat exchanger code.
  • The new service for this equipment was less stringent, i.e., pressures and temperatures were lower than before and the new chemicals being processed were no more hazardous than the old ones.
  • Nevertheless we had to cancel the project because a fundamental change in service meant that the “grandfather clauses” that had allowed us to keep operating were no longer usable and we could not justify the cost of a major upgrade to the equipment.

Now fast forward to Ashland’s railroad.

In the posts to do with the proposed “High Speed Rail” project we have repeatedly pointed out that the Third Rail option is a code violation. Let us summarize the logic.

  • The existing tracks were laid down in the years 1843 and 1903, long before the introduction of codes to do with track beds.
  • The existing tracks are in violation of modern code in two regards. First the spacing between the tracks is too narrow. Second, there is insufficient space between the edge of the tracks and the public highway (see DRPT Basis of Design).
  • Current operation of the tracks is permitted under the concept of a “grandfather clause”.
  • Adding a third rail means that all the tracks, not just the new one, have to be upgraded to modern code.
  • The fact that there has been only one major derailment in the Ashland area in recent years is immaterial. The codes’ requirements have to be followed.
  • Based on the maps published by DRPT the proposed expansion is in violation of code.
  • Hence the Third Rail option does not meet the requirements of Federal law.
  • Hence the Third Rail option cannot go forward.

Let us apply the same logic to the 3-2-3 option.

  • The project has two justifications. The first is to provide High Speed Passenger train capability. The second is to allow for a 95% increase in freight traffic and a 71% increase in the number of tank cars carrying Highly Hazardous Chemicals following the expansion of the east coast ports.
  • Both of these rationales constitute a fundamental change in the operation of the tracks. This is analogous to the engineering analogy which started this post.
  • Hence the grandfather clauses that apply to the existing tracks no longer hold.
  • Hence the 3-2-3 option does not meet the requirements of Federal law.
  • Hence the 3-2-3 option cannot go forward.

Two final thoughts.

  1. It is possible for the project team to ask for a variance from a safety code. But few regulators or engineers will ever do so for what should be self-evident reasons. That option was never on the table as we decided what to do with regard to our little engineering project.
  2. The project may be able to meet code by destroying and existing homes and businesses. But doing so is not part of the published option. If the project team changes the scope of work then there are many more new options to be considered.

To close out the anecdote that started this post; when I presented the results of the engineering analysis to the project manager I was not exactly the most popular person in the room because it resulted in cancellation of the project. But never at any time was there any question that we had made the right decision.

Safety first.

Chemicals

1987-3
As part of our White Paper The Ashland Third Main-Line: Unsafe, Destructive, Costly we are compiling a list of the toxic and flammable chemicals that travel through our town by rail by tank car. The cars have a red placard on them (see picture) with two numbers. I would be grateful if people could jot down the numbers on the placards that they see and send them to me.

Below is an example that I saw a few minutes ago.

1987

The number ‘1987’ means (industrial) ethanol. The number ‘3’ means that the material is flammable.

Ethanol has a flash point of 16.6 °C (61.9 °F) which means that it will ignite if exposed to an ignition source (such as a car engine) at ambient temperatures. Evidently it is not possible to extinguish an ethanol fire with either water or normal foam (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxRU0QLt3vc).

Once more, please jot down the numbers that you see and send them to me.

Guest Post #3 – Details, Details

Engineer-1

The following is a guest post from Bob Brown, a resident of Ashland. Mr. Brown served as town planner for the City of Philadelphia for many years and is currently on the Board of the Main St. Association of Ashland.

Editorial Comment: It is likely that the impact of a new track through Ashland would be considerably greater than Mr. Brown has shown here due to the need to bring all tracks up to modern code (see Not Your Grandfather’s Railroad).

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April 29, 2016

Friends and Neighbors:

The call for facts about the proposed “High Speed” Rail is fundamental. The following is my (initial) list of detail questions that everyone needs to know and have answered. Note that this list relates to Ashland (I assume some similar facts could be given for the Western route alternative.)

Note that they require several sets of evaluations:

  •             Railroad Engineering,
  •             Real Estate and Business Economics,
  •             Historic Analysis,
  •             Traffic and Pedestrian Analysis,
  •             Town Planning Analysis.
  •             College Planning Analysis

This is NOT merely a Railroad Engineering and Planning process…

Answers to these questions must be given before any position vote is taken, regarding the evaluation of possible train service changes in Ashland:

ASSUMPTION 1, RE ASHLAND: THIRD RAIL IS ADDED, AND EAST SIDE OF CENTER ST./RAILROAD AVE IS REMOVED –

  •  Exactly how many homes and properties would lose any auto access (i think it is at least 12). These homes would have to be purchased and removed.
  • What will happen to the corner houses, once the East side street is closed? Will all those streets require Fire Engine turn-arounds, thus removing land from those properties?
  • Note that this assumes that the businesses on the East side of Downtown will have no front or street access. Will this not put them out of business? And, if this one side of Railroad Ave. is put out of business, and if there is only one south-bound traffic lane, how will the West side businesses survive?
  • What will be the functional (and visual) impact on the College when its main north-south frontage street is removed? (this could be a big question for Randolph Macon to consider.) Note that much of its on-street parking would also be eliminated,
  • How would Center St. & Railroad Ave. function when there is only one-way (South bound) traffic possible – in both the Downtown and residential areas (and at the College)?
  • Will fences be required – on both sides of the tracks? If so, will pedestrian crossings be eliminated, and the Town cut in half? If so, what will that do to the quality of life of the houses on the West side of Center St.? What is their future? What will the College do, since it now exists on both sides of the Tracks?
  • How can the existing Train Station continue to function when there are three rails?
  • What will be the impact of all this on our historic buildings and Historic District?
  • What is will be the maximum speed permitted of all trains – especially including the “High Speed” rail?
  • Will the no-train-horn rule remain in effect as they pass through Town?
  • What are the projected number and size of freight trains that could come through Town? How is that different from what we experience now?
  • Will Amtrak still make stops in Ashland – or not?
  • And – the biggest question of all: What will be the future of historic and economically thriving Ashland if all the properties along the tracks, and in the Downtown (and perhaps parts of the College) cease to function? Will our beloved Community no longer exist?

ASSUMPTION 2, RE ASHLAND: NO THIRD RAIL; JUST “IMPROVEMENTS” TO THE TWO EXISTING TRACKS:

  • Exactly what are the “improvements”? Exactly what changes could they impose on the operation and quality of all three parts of Center St. and Railroad Ave.: Downtown, Residences, College?
  • What construction will take place, and how long will it take?
  • What are the projected number and size of freight trains that could come through Town? How is that different from what we experience now?
  • Will Amtrak still make stops in Ashland – or not?
  • Will – once again – pedestrian crossings be eliminated?
  • Will – once again – fences be required? If so, the same questions apply:

Elimination of pedestrian crossings (dividing Ashland in half)?

What would be the quality of life and the property values be for the houses on both sides of the tracks?

What would be our ability to shop in Downtown on both sides of the tracks?

What must the College do if pedestrian crossings are limited, since the campus now exists on both sides of the Tracks?

  • Once again – What will be the impact of all this on our historic buildings and Historic District?
  • What is will be the maximum speed permitted of all trains – especially including the “High Speed” rail?
  • Will the no-train-horn rule remain in effect as they pass through Town?

This may just be a start. Does anyone have other questions that we need to have answered before working out our position?

Bob (Brown)

PS: A detail: sometimes illustrations (diagrams, sketch views, sketch plans and street cross sections) help explain the issues. If Main Street, the Town, or the neighbors feel they would be a help, I would gladly do some.

Cultural Impact #2: Not Your Grandfather’s Railroad


Train-Ashland-History

The impact of the proposed third track through the Town of Ashland can be organized into the following three  categories:

  1. Safety/Environmental;
  2. Cultural — including the loss of historic buildings and sites; and
  3. Economic.

We are publishing a series of posts outlining concerns to do with all three areas. Posts to date include:

This is the second post in the Cultural series (although it could also be considered to be a safety topic).

Help Needed

I have worked as a professional engineer on large projects for much of my career. Hence I am familiar as to how such projects are organized and managed. In particular, as a result of my book-writing activities, I have a reasonable grasp as to how engineering standards are developed and implemented. However my experience has been in the process industries (oil refineries, chemical plants, offshore oil and gas platforms). This HSR Project is, of course, to do with a different industry: railways. Therefore I request that anyone who has worked on the design or construction of a railroad expansion project such as this to critique the work that I have done and correct any errors or false assumptions.

Thank you.

Basis of Design

BOD-Title-1

It is normal for project managers to create a document that summarizes the technical and engineering standards that they will be following for their project . They have to follow legal requirements, of course — of that there is no choice. But there is generally some flexibility as to which industry standards and practices are to be adopted. With regard to this proposed project the project team has published a 105 page document entitled the Basis of Design (BOD), dated February 24, 2015 (DRPT 2015).

Shown below is the first page of the BOD’s Table of Contents.

BOD-TOC
The design engineers must follow the standards that are provided in the BOD. Only in rare circumstances can the design engineers claim an exemption.

Development of Design Standards

For background it is useful to to understand how engineering codes and standards are developed and applied.

The Regulatory Processfra-logo-1

In the United States, the federal regulatory process starts when both Houses of Congress develop a law or statute. Generally, each House develops its own version. These are then sent to committee, where a compromise bill is agreed upon. This, in turn, goes to the President, who signs it (unless he chooses to use his power of veto). Once a statute becomes law, the affected agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in this case, develop specific regulations. It is the regulations, not the law itself, that companies are expected to follow. (The words “regulation” and “rule” are used synonymously in this post.)

Once the regulation has been written it is listed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and indexed in the Federal Register. The public and other interested parties are invited to comment on this draft regulation. Following the implementation of a standard, the agency can modify it through Letters of Interpretation. If a person or organization disagrees with some part of the regulation, they can challenge it in court on the grounds that it does not meet the intent of the original Congressional statute. If the court agrees, the standard is implicitly changed.

This whole process is illustrated in the sketch below.

Regulatory-Process-1

Engineering Standards

Arema-1Rules and regulations generally do not provide sufficient detail for engineers to make detailed design decisions. Therefore all industries have standards-setting bodies that develop  detailed guidance. For example, AREMA (the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association) published the 2016 Manual for Railway Engineering, Chapter 5 of which contains a Recommended Practice entitled Track (AREMA 2016) and which is probably the most relevant to these discussions.

Usually these engineering standards are not a formal legal requirement unless they are adopted into a regulation by reference. However, even when they are not legally required, failure to follow them is hard to justify.

 Ashland, Ashland

Ashland-Ashland
On page 18 of her book Ashland, Ashland Rosanne Shalf describes the history of the railroad in Ashland.

Workers laid the first twenty miles of single track to the Hanover site in 1836 . . . Workers began to lay double lines of track along the route in 1903.

(Shalf, 1994)

The first engineering standards in the United States were developed in the early years of the 20th century with an initial focus on boiler explosions. The newly formed American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), for example, published its first first boiler code in the year 1914. This means, therefore, that when the existing Ashland tracks were installed it is very unlikely that the engineers at the time had to worry about code to do with spacing requirements between the tracks and adjacent pedestrians and buildings. And, as the picture at the head of this post shows, there simply wasn’t the density of building and road traffic in the town as we have now.

“Grandfathering”

Any project that involves upgrading an existing facility will likely face the challenge of “grandfathering” old designs. Standards generally become more stringent over time. But it is not practical to re-engineer an existing facility every time a new version of a standard is published. So it is normal for the facility to be “grandfathered”, i.e., it can remain “as is” and does not need to meet the latest code. An example in day-to-day life is to do with backup cameras on automobiles. It is likely that future rules will require that they be installed on all new cars but that old cars will not need to have them retrofitted.

In industry this concept of grandfathering only holds if the original facility is not significantly modified. If large changes are made then it is likely that the entire system will have to be upgraded to meet the latest standards. Adding a third track to two existing tracks constitutes a huge change. Hence I assume that the entire system will need to be upgraded to 2016 standards and to meet the requirements of the BOD for spacing between the tracks and pedestrians and buildings.

Minimum Separation Distances

Chapter 3 of the BOD —  “Highway” — appears to be the most pertinent to this discussion, particularly Section 3.3.6, which is entitled “Pedestrians/Bike Paths/Trails”.  Page 3-4 provides an inactive link to a document entitled Vtrans Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Planning and Design Manual that presumably provides more detail. (I was unable to open the link or to locate the document on the internet.) The recommended minimum separation distances are provided in Figure 3-1, which is reproduced below.

separation-sketch-1

Engineering Judgment

No matter how detailed the rules and standards may be there are always gray areas that require interpretation and the application of professional judgement. For example, Page 3-5 of the BOD shows three types of rail operation.

BOD-3-5

A normal first response would be to put the town of Ashland into the first category:

“11 trains or more per day. Max Speed over 45 mph”.

But trains are not allowed to travel at 45 mph through town, so maybe the town does not fall into that category. It is not clear if the standard means,

. . . per day or Max Speed . . .

or

. . . per day and Max Speed . . .

Judgment is called for (or else the project engineering manager reviewed this document with an insufficiently sharp pencil).

Minor Upgrade

There is currently a discussion going on to do with a “Minor Upgrade” to the tracks through Ashland. (This option was removed from a recent Board of Supervisors motion.) No definition has been provided for the word “minor”, thus making the whole discussion rather vague. However, it may not be that all that important. Based on the the information in this post it is likely that any upgrade that can materially affect the capacity of the railroad will be large enough to obviate the existing exemption from code. Hence it is probable that,

All minor upgrades are actually major upgrades

Hence even a “minor” upgrade will lead to destruction of historic homes and businesses and will be enormously costly.

Conclusion

All engineering projects have to meet a plethora of codes and standards. In order to fully understand the impact of this proposed project on the town of Ashland we need to identify which of those codes apply. Based on the preliminary analysis provided here the following early conclusions are reached.

  1. The existing tracks were installed when there was little or nothing in the way of construction codes and standards.
  2. Adding a third track through the center of town means that the existing tracks would have to be upgraded to meet current code.
  3. The spacing required for this upgrade would be substantial and the impact on the town would be greater than previously anticipated.

This post started with a request. If anyone can provide insights regarding the engineering or construction of railroad tracks please let me know. In particular, I invite professional comments to do with the engineering discussions and assumptions that this post has initiated.

Next week we will probably glance at the topic of Cognitive Dissonance.

Citations

American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA). 2016 Manual for Railway Engineering. 2016.

Shalf, Roseanne Groat. Ashland, Ashland. Brunswick Publishing Corporation. 1994.

Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). Basis of Design. Technical Criteria for Concept & Preliminary Engineering. Final Report. February 24, 2015.

Notes of Hanover Meeting: 2016-04-27

hanover-seal-1

At the Hanover Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (April 27th) a motion to do with the proposed rail project was presented. The discussion to do with this motion started at 6:26 p.m. and concluded at 6: 35 p.m. All supervisors but Mr. Hazzard were present for the discussion.

The original motion read,

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Hanover County Board of Supervisors after consideration of the original alternatives and the new Ashland minor upgrade alternative, rescinds the County Administrator’s January 7, 2016, letter and seeks to partner with citizens of Hanover County and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to identify an upgrade for the current tracks through Ashland which will result in the least disruption to the residents and businesses of the Town of Ashland, and accommodates the need to provide safe and efficient freight and passenger rail service.

The wording of the motion was changed during the discussion. A copy of the actual motion was not provided to the members of the public but it appears as if the following words,

an upgrade for the current tracks through Ashland which will result in the least disruption to the residents and businesses of the Town of Ashland 

were replaced with something more generic on the lines of “best alternatives”.

Ms. Prichard made the following points:

  1. The word “minor” in the original motion is not defined.
  2. She supports a united front for all of Hanover County.

It should be noted that, in reality, there can be no such thing as a “minor upgrade” to the existing tracks. Any upgrade will likely require that the entire system be modified to meet current codes. Such a modification will be far from “minor”. More on this in next week’s post Not Your Grandfather’s Railroad.

Safety Impact #2: Tier I Evaluation

Documents-1Introduction

The proposed High Speed Rail project has generated much debate. But there is one aspect of the project about which there can be no debate: Safety. There is nothing more important than making sure that all those who ride the trains or who live or work near the tracks go home in the condition in which they arrived. All other issues — the environment, culture, historic farmland, old homes, profits — take second place to safety. Period. Full stop.

In a recent post it was noted that the safety issues to do with this proposed project cannot be taken for granted — indeed, there is a real chance that a train could leave the tracks at high speed. Were such an event to take place in a populated area such as the Town of Ashland the consequences could be momentous. And last year’s crash of Amtrak Train #188 shows that such events are plausible.

With these thoughts in mind available Tier I documents were reviewed to see how they analyzed safety. Certain parameters are basic to such an analysis. They include:

  • How is “acceptable safety” defined?
  • Have thorough investigations of similar projects and railroad systems been carried out in order to generate lessons learned?
  • What rules, regulations, reports and industry standards were consulted in order to ensure that the latest safety techniques are being used?
  • What methodologies were used for analyzing risk and safety?
  • What safety criteria were used when comparing one track option with another?

Tier I Analysis Matrix

In order to understand how Tier I decisions were made the simple matrix shown below was created. As data are added to the cells of the matrix it will be possible for those impacted by this project to assess the decision-making process in an organized and objective manner.

The matrix has four columns — one for each of the corridors discussed (the ‘East of Ashland’ option incorporates an upgrade to the Buckingham Branch line). There are five rows, some of which may be expanded. For example, ‘Cultural’ can include the destruction of historic homes, the loss of community created by tall fences and the desecration of historic sites. ‘Economic’ includes the losses that business in the Town of Ashland would sustain were the community to be bisected.

Analysis-Matrix

The final row — ‘Long-Term’ — is to do with the selection of a corridor that will be best in the coming decades. The choice of the Town of Ashland would be a bad one for the this category because speeds through town will always be restricted to 50 mph or so. There will never actually be “high speed” rail in Ashland. On the other hand selection of the I-95 corridor will allow for true high speed passenger trains (300 km/h). The existing tracks would be used for freight and commuter service between Richmond and D.C.

Formal Safety Analysis

The formal analysis of safety is a large topic — one that is outside the scope of this post. Nevertheless the Tier I documents should contain at least some formal safety analysis. One example of such an approach is the use of F-N curves such as that shown below (‘F’ stands for frequency of fatalities or injuries; ‘N’ represents the number of persons harmed). Such a curve is basically saying is that there is an inverse relationship between the frequency of events and the consequences of those events.

Risk-Boundaries

The sketch shows three zones:

  • Unacceptable risk;
  • Area of judgment; and
  • Acceptable risk.

At a minimum it can be expected that (a) the reports provide numerical values to define the zones, and (b) a relative ranking for each of the corridor options should be provided.

Tier I Review

The following documents were reviewed in order to understand how safety has been analyzed on Tier I of the proposed project. The paper trail is  tangled and the documents are still being evaluated. The following are initial findings to do with safety.

It must be stressed that there may be other documents. This research is not necessarily complete.

Environmental Impact Statement

Federal Register. October 23, 2014. Vol. 79. No. 205

This is the document that authorizes the Tier II process. It does not appear to provide significant information regarding the Tier I EIS (discussed below), nor does it provide guidance as to how safety is to be evaluated. The heart of the document is about two and a half pages long. It is supplemented by extensive paperwork documenting the meetings that were held in 2014.

Regarding the DC2RVA part of the project the following quotation is pertinent.

Additionally, this project will include preliminary engineering and environmental analyses for related capacity improvements on the CSXT Peninsula Subdivision in the Richmond area . . . on the Buckingham Branch Railroad from AM Junction through Doswell, VA, to the north, as well as two localities where specific improvements have not been identified: Elmont to North Doswell (through Ashland, VA) and Fredericksburg to Dahlgren (through Fredericksburg, VA and the Rappahannock River Bridge). These areas will be evaluated for station, track, and safety improvements as well as the feasibility of a third track. This project will involve further analysis of the alignment of the route selected through the 2002 Tier I EIS and Record of Decision, including the Buckingham Branch Railroad and the CSXT S-Line and A-Line routes from Greendale north of Richmond to Centralia south of Richmond.

Tier I EIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement)

This document contains the following sections:

  • Summary and Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3 Comments and Responses.
  • Appendix

The following quotation is from this document.

The most consistent community concern SEHSR Washington, DC to Charlotte, NC 1-16 Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement (abbreviated format) expressed during the public hearings was safety.

Otherwise there are no significant comments to do with safety could be located.

Scoping Summary

This document is dated May 15, 2015. It consists of a report and appendices.

In the Comment Summary it is noted that 7% of the responses referred to Traffic/Safety.

Page 4-7 contains the following:

Comment: I am concerned that higher speed will lead to a great number of accidents.

Response: Safety is of paramount importance and will be a primary consideration in the development of improvement concepts. Safety analyses performed as part of the DC2RVATier II EIS will address the effectiveness of each proposed concept with regard to safety. In addition, Project improvements will include new and enhanced safety features such as road and rail grade separations and flashing lights and gates at roadway-rail at-grade crossings throughout the corridor as appropriate. 

Record of Decision for the Tier I Southeast High Speed Rail Project

Page 16 contains a statement that the project will improve “overall transportation safety”. No analyses or data are provided to substantiate this statement.  Otherwise there are no significant comments to do with safety.

Conclusions

Based on the Tier I documents reviewed — and it must be stressed that the review is still underway and there may be additional pertinent information not yet identified — three conclusions can be drawn.

  1. There does not appear to have been any formal safety analysis, such as the use of F-N curves to evaluate the safety issues associated with each corridor option.
  2. There are  few references to safety in any of the documents that were evaluated.
  3. Very little information is available to support the corridor selection decisions made in Tier I.

If readers of this post have additional hard information to do with safety and the Tier 1 process please provide it via the Comment section of this blog.

Given this background it is recommended that the project team retain a qualified risk analyst to review the safety impact of each of the corridor options.

Comments to DC2RVA Rail

We have been reminded that comments should be submitted to the project web site at http://www.dc2rvarail.com/contact-us/ (email, mail or phone). Other comments, including those on social media sites, yard signs, blog pages and newspaper articles will not be formally recognized.

We are starting a series of posts to do with the impact of the proposed third track on the Town of Ashland. Many of these posts will include video clips and links to external sites. We presume that it will be sufficient to include hyperlink addresses in these comments.

The posts will fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Safety and Environmental;
  2. Cultural — including the impact on historical buildings and sites; and
  3. Economic.

The first post will be: “Cultural Impact #1: Stonewall Jackson”.

Property Owner Information

mitchell-jennifer-1
Director Mitchell

The project web site has a new page: Property Owner Information. It discusses the rights that they have to enter a property to gather information for studies.

The page shows a pro forma letter from the DRPT’s director, Jennifer L. MitchellIf they intend to survey your property you should have received a copy of this letter before they start work.