Rails and Resources: Half dozen of the other...

Perhaps some of you read the story in today's business section of the Roanoke Times. An interesting look into some "behind the scenes" at the growth Norfolk Southern has made in the past few years, why and how.

The one resource missed by the article, one which can be easily shipped in double-stacked cars, the most obvious choice for rail transport.


All through the Transportation Meeting at the Hotel Roanoke in the past few weeks, the Governor's speeches and all the rest - much has been made about intermodal rail transport in Virginia. But there was no reported mention of the TransDominion Express.

For those of you who did not hear, or have forgotten since the last time the major media players around here saw fit to mention the project, TransDominion Express started as the basic idea of brining high-speed commuter rail from Bristol to Washington, D.C. in the space of a day or less. And when the numbers were run, models showed the run could be made in 8 hours, provided rail traffic allowed.

This would require agreements from Norfolk Southern and CSX to get the slotted time on the rails. It would also require major funding from the state and federal levels - for the equipment and such. Most of all, it would require renovations to the rails themselves - an upgrade to be capable of handling high-speed commuter rail.

There is some momentum for this, but it is hidden behind the curtain of commercial rail. Not widely reported, other states are interested in moving ahead with the project and gaining rail service. Tennesse is very interested in having the TDX run through to Nashville - creating a regional rail service similar to Amtrak.

This is the projected, working model route map for the TDX.

Amtrak has not served Roanoke since the early 1980's. The Virginian was swallowed by Norfolk Western. For a town with not one, but TWO grand rail stations - it is a shame that there is no constant rail service. The TDX would give the entire region a boost. If you look at the map above - you'll see that Roanoke would be considered large enough a stop to be staffed full-time. Lynchburg also. Which means they consider Roanoke and Lynchburg to be major destinations along the line.

We all know the rebirth Lynchburg is undergoing, and we can see daily the changes here in Roanoke. We all want to succeed, and for the city to do well also. We have this new Art Museum going up right next to the tracks, we have a grand hotel right next to the tracks, we have a Visitor's Welcome Center/Dual Museum right ne.. no wait - that's the old station. Ok - well it's still right next to the tracks.

Communting from Roanoke to Lynchburg, or Lynchburg to Bedford, or a game-day trip to Charlottesville from Wytheville and back need not be a chore. Nor would it need to be a budget-buster. And for school field trips to the Nation's Capitol, what could be easier than a same day trip regardless of weather or traffic accidents.

Commerce between the cities would boom, people would have the option of going to see a play at the Mill Mountain Theatre, checking out a band at Cattle Annie's, or head to class at Radford - all by rail.

Building an ampitheatre in Roanoke would generate a ton more interest if college students could leave their cars (if they have one) at the campus and hitch a ride to the show. Plus, it would remove some of the concertgoers off the roads, easing congestion into and out of the parking lots.

Passenger rail would be a win-win for the entire service area. I have not even touched upon the gains both from and to the DC area, and Nashville. We are talking about a single act that would change the course of life here in the Commonwealth.

But it sits on the backburner till the next legislative session, or till the current "transportation crisis" is ended. Actually, short of public outcry - I don't forsee the TDX gaining any slice of the media pie for a long time. There is no drama in attemping to bring a service to people who actually want it. The drama is in making our roads look like deathtraps. Or our state legislators seem like corporate fatcats (which in some cases may be true) in the pocket of the rail shipping industry. But aside from "public opinion polls" and street interviews, where is the regular man being represented? The call for commuter rail has yet to reach the ears of the media, or the halls of the government.

Maybe it's time to make them hear it.

Use this simple form to find your state legislator, and hound them about the TDX. Ask the hard questions. Push for what you want. But think wisely, with the influx of people moving into the Southwestern Virginia area, how long will it be before traffic is a "New York Nightmare?"

And if you feel so inclined - give a few of the reporters over at the Times a buzz, and ask them why they are not asking the Government leaders about commuter rail in our area. Those numbers you can find easily - they are listed by each reporters name on every story they do.

Think about it, shouldn't a railtown like Roanoke have easily access to.. well, you know.. rail?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke had the bill on this in the General Assembly earlier this year, but it got shot down in a hurry.