Friday, September 03, 2004
Editorial: No free ride for rail service in Virginia
If residents want passenger train service, they should prepare to pay for it.
From the RoundTable blog
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Norfolk Southern executives didn't mince words this week when they told the Virginia Commission on Rail Enhancement that if passenger service expands in Virginia, it will require a funding commitment from the state, without subsidies from the railroad. Virginia, are you listening? If the number of passenger trains increases in the commonwealth, Virginians will be responsible for the tab. Don't expect a free ride for a service that will benefit the state by easing road congestion and rounding out its transportation network.
The financial straight talk from the railroad is reasonable. Norfolk Southern is a private company in business to make a profit.
The company is willing to let passenger trains travel on its rail lines, but capital investment in the state's entire transit network should be a priority for Virginians.
Throughout the state, people travel daily along a transportation system too reliant on crowded surface roads and highways.
Just last week, a study commissioned by the Virginia Department of Transportation found that major roads in Northern Virginia have reached their capacity, creating gridlock.
Commuters in Hampton Roads, where distrustful voters failed to approve additional road funding two years ago, face similar congestion.
In Southwest Virginia, Interstate 81 strains under perilous conditions, with motorists routinely jockeying against a growing number of 18-wheelers.
Last fall, a state study found that truck traffic along the I-81 corridor will almost double in 16 years. The solution, according to the study?
Because building an adequate rail system won't come cheaply, Gov. Mark Warner appointed the rail commission to develop creative ways to pay for passenger and freight rail improvements.
Virginians should insist that their public officials realize the vital potential of rail transit by giving it urgent attention - and financial commitment.