Guv's decree: Charlottesville Amtrak service gets another two years
The three-year pilot program to run a daily train between Lynchburg and Boston– greatly bolstering Charlottesville's railroad access to New York and other zesty cities in the Northeast– has won an additional two years of operating funding.
It's never been entirely clear to this reporter why a train that supposedly generates an operating profit requires an ongoing subsidy. (The answer may lie in capital commitments the state has made to the freight railroads that allow the Amtrak trains to ride their rails.)
In any event, the news released Friday, December 30, is that a new state budget proposal specifically allows the Commonwealth Transportation Board to allocate any needed money from the six-year-old Rail Enhancement Fund into a new fund called the Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund.
While the person who actually presented the budget is Governor Bob McDonnell, the person making the announcement about the impact on this Amtrak "Northeast Regional" service was Democratic minority leader and Charlottesville-based Delegate David Toscano, who hailed the salvation of the service "a great victory in these trying economic times."
Rail booster Meredith Richards explains that the the governor's move diverts money from Virginia's rail infrastructure fund to pay for another two years of operating the regional trains (including one that connects Richmond to the northeast corridor).
"It's a short-term solution," says Richards, "but it signals the state's commitment to continuing the relationship with Amtrak and supporting its Northeast Regional services."
–updated 6:11pm January 1 to correct funding source and amplify with addition of Richards quote