State rail plan puts us on two rail routes
"We've gotten ourselves noticed," says Meredith Richards, exulting over the state report that puts Charlottesville not only on the much-anticipated Piedmont passenger line but also recommends the city for inclusion on the TDX, another planned state rail route that has already received a $9.3-million earmark from the General Assembly.
"I'm buoyed by what I'm seeing," says Richards, a former City Councilor who heads a consortium of 21 municipalities that reached out recently to the governor by passing unanimous resolutions in favor of a daily Lynchburg-to-New York passenger rail service. On Tuesday night, Virginia released its Statewide Rail Plan, which also puts the Norfolk Southern line running through Charlottesville first in line for state-assisted infrastructure improvements.
The next step for Charlottesville, Richards says, is the state's action plan, which is due out in September. That may help explain who wants to cover the $1.9-million annual deficit that running a daily train to New York might incur.
"1.9 million is not much money compared to an interchange," chimed in City Councilor Satyendra Huja, at a week-ago press conference.
"We don't have the highway money to build ourselves out of the car and truck transportation problem," agreed Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker, at the same media event.
"It's easy for people in Richmond to think that because we have trains in two directions each day that we're okay," said Richards, "but we're not okay. We're the caboose. There's not a public transit system in the world–- certainly not passenger rail–- that operates without a subsidy," Richards said.
The governor recently responded via letter to Richards expressing his interest in passenger rail and pointing out that in the recent special legislative session he tried to get funding, but that special section ended with no legislation. Hey, there's always the winter General Assembly.
One thing sure to be bolstered in value by a daily train to New York is the giant but gravelled and pot-holed parking lot. A big sign touts that 3.22 acres are for sale by "Team Kabbash," but a pair of phone messages left for the Team did not garner us a return call. Last time we checked, the property purchased 12/17/97 for $707,838 was offered for $3 million, $12 million, or $20 million, according to one of the elusive owners.
–story updated 3;40pm on July 19.