High-Speed Rail Forum

The plan for a high-speed train linking Richmond to Washington, D.C. continues to develop, troubling the residents of Ashland.

According to the proposed rail’s website, dc2rvarail.com, the high-speed rail between Richmond and D.C. would exist as part of the Southeast High-Speed Rail (SEHSR) project; a transportation effort to extend the high-speed rail passenger services along the east coast.

The project is currently funded by three sources, the largest of which is a Federal Railroad Administration high-speed rail grant, which has contributed to 80 percent of the overall funding. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is contributing 15 percent, while international transportation company CSXT is funding the remaining 5 percent.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is in the process of drafting an environmental impact statement for the high-speed railway. The department is studying proposed options for the new infrastructure that would be needed from Ashland. The first option would be a no-build option, the second option requires a bypass to be built west of town, and the third option would add a track to the existing tracks that already cut through downtown.

The last option has caused some irritation from town residents, and objections from a community organization and the local government. The concerns range from safety fears to a change in property values, and some worry that a third track would ultimately upset the town.

Tom Wulf, Executive Director of the Ashland Main Street Association, said the addition of a track and any barriers or fences it would require would create an “incalculable” loss to the community.

“You can’t put a value on the charm, the quaintness, and the aesthetic values you would lose,” Wulf said, after a community meeting about the project at the beginning of the month.

According to the attendees of the February 17th forum, many questions remain about the high-speed rail and residents feel as if they are being kept in the dark. Congressman Dave Brat seemed to be uninformed as well.

“I don’t know about this railroad,” he said in response to one of the first of many public questions regarding the rail. “I’ve been told it’s going to be an issue, but that’s all I’ve got.”

During the forum, Brat asked attendees for a show of hands for who supported the proposal for the high-speed rail; no one raised their hands.

Many residents were calmed to see the lack of support for the rail, but many questions still remain. The next citizens’ input section will be held on March 1, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.

-Erin Roberts ’16, Senior News Editor

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