General Assembly Support Needed to Continue Virginia’s Successful Regional Trains
Virginians for High Speed Rail, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce, and the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce jointly released a report outlining the importance of Virginia’s six roundtrip intercity regional trains and requesting the General Assembly’s support to continue and improve these services. These six trains connect over 66 percent of all Virginians and serve the communities of Alexandria, Burke Centre, Quantico, Woodbridge, Manassas, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Ashland, Charlottesville, Henrico, Downtown Richmond, Lynchburg, Williamsburg, Newport News, Petersburg (fall 2012), Norfolk (fall 2012), Roanoke (bus connection), and Virginia Beach (bus connection), and link them to Washington, DC and the Northeast corridor.
To read the report, click here.
Amtrak service in the Commonwealth has grown by over 50 percent during the last five years, and two of the top three best performing regional train routes in Amtrak’s system are in the Commonwealth. Virginians are proving that they want the transportation choices that intercity passenger trains provide, and they want more train options.
The report also highlights the fact that the Commonwealth needs an estimated $115.4 million over the next five years to sustain these regional trains. If Virginia does not fund the continued operation of these trains, it will not only lose critical transportation options but it could cost taxpayers over $1 billion to reinstate train service that is discontinued.
Two pieces of legislation introduced in the 2012 General Assembly session partially fund the Virginia Intercity Passenger Rail Operating and Capital Fund (IPROC) and the Commonwealth’s regional trains. First, Governor McDonnell included short-term funding of $26.1 million in his 2012-2014 biennial budget sponsored by Senator Chuck Colgan (Senate Bill 30) and Delegate Lacy Putney (House Bill 30) which will fund the continued operation of the regional trains for the next two years. Second, Senator John Watkins introduced a budget item in the 2010-2012 biennial budget that would direct $67.2 million from the Commonwealth’s budget surplus to IPROC which can be used for infrastructure or operations. These proposals are important short-term measures, and they should be adopted. However, we also need to identify a long-term, dedicated, and sustainable funding source to allow our trains to operate beyond 2014.
“The record performance of rail in Virginia last year shows that people want more transportation choices,” said Trip Pollard, Director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Land and Community Program. “Intercity rail is a cleaner, more efficient option that can reduce congestion, pollution, and dependence on foreign oil while promoting community revitalization and economic growth.”
Jack Hornbeck, CCE, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce has long supported improved transportation infrastructure. This region has a unique national asset, containing the largest concentration of federal activities anywhere in the country outside of D.C. Dependable, efficient, and cost effective rail service to and from the D.C. area would provide a vital transportation link.”
“Virginia’s regional trains are important to our economy creating jobs, removing cars from the roads, and connecting the Commonwealth’s population centers to each other and to the Northeast Corridor” stated Danny Plaugher, Executive Director of Virginians for High Speed Rail, “That is why we need the General Assembly to act and make sure that we do not lose Virginia’s regional train service.”
Virginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR) is a non-profit 501(C)(3) coalition, founded in 1994, that educates and advocates for the improvement and expansion of fast, frequent, and reliable intercity and high speed passenger rail service connecting Virginia to the northeast and southeast corridors. For more information visit www.vhsr.com.
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