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Virginia Governor proposes funds for Roanoke Extension


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#1 afigg

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:38 AM

Gov. McDonnell (Republican) has proposed to fund a bunch of transportation projects as part of his push to increase the VA state sales tax from 5% to 5.8% with the added revenue going to transportation. The sales tax proposal is rather controversial, but don't want to get into the in and outs of his revenue proposal right now/

 

The major news for passenger rail is that his proposed new funding through state FY2018 has the following projects listed in this summary page:

$102 million for extending passenger service to Roanoke, mostly spent by FY2016.

$79 million for passenger service to Norfolk (upgrades, Appomattox bridge perhaps?)

$35 million for passenger service to Newport News (further out in FY16 to FY18)

$47 million for capacity Richmond to DC  (FY16 to FY18)

$45 million total over 6 years for 6 PRIIA trains.

 

The Governor's press release states that "Funding for these projects are in addition to the funding in the Commonwealth Transportation Board's current Six-Year Improvement Program". So these funds would be added to the funds already budgeted for the current VA Regional service, various track projects. My take is that this is calling for 6 additional VA Regional trains on top of what VA is planning to pay for. So, 3 daily trains to Norfolk, Newport News, maybe 2 to Roanoke by 2018? With improved trip times in VA as well?

 

Boardman likes the proposal so much that Amtrak put a news release in support of service to Roanoke.

 

I think with the Governor pushing for it. that while the sales tax initiative may get watered down. there is real  support for extending service to Roanoke in the nearer term and not let it slide until the end of the decade. Maybe having a conservative Republican Governor actively supporting Amtrak service expansion in VA will nidge the Republicans in PA and NC to not step away from Amtrak service in their states.


Edited by afigg, 25 January 2013 - 04:49 PM.


#2 dlagrua

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 01:19 PM

From what I have read the last estimate of restoring Roanoke service was 2018. I've visited that city. They already have two structures that can be re-used as passenger stations. The magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright designed Union Station still stands and is in top shape. The O Winston Link museum is on the basement level but the top floor is just used these days to distribute tourist info and brochures. The parking lot in front is still there and also in good shape. Station platforms are there but the bridge/ stairs down to the platforms will need to be rebuilt. The city of Roanoke should just reuse what they already have. Union station looks just like the day rail service ended.  The benches are still there as is the schedule/info board and it's of large enough size for a city such as Roanoke..

If that doesn't work the other station (former Virginian RR passenger station) is also being rebuilt. The trackage already runs through Roanoke for both stations and is currently used by Norfolk Southern for freight. Short of equipment I do not understand why the estimates for restoring service are so high.

From what I see service should be able to be restored on a shoestring. Comments????????


Edited by dlagrua, 25 January 2013 - 01:21 PM.


#3 Notelvis

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:12 PM

Agreed - the railroading industry...... and by continuation - passenger trains....... have continued to be ingrained in the minds of most people in the Roanoke area. There is enough infrastructure left over here that Roanoke would not have to start from scratch.


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#4 Train Rider

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:41 PM

Existing tracks that haven't been used for decades for passenger rail are nice because no right-of-way needs to be bought and developed. However, this chunk of track may require signaling and passing track upgrades to make it an efficient line capable of handling passenger rail at a desireable speed and predictable time table.  It may also include some road construction funds for viaducts to reduce crossings by major highways/streets.

 

Also, if these stations look like the day rail service ended, then they will require significant and potentially expensive modifications required by the Americans with Disablities Act.


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#5 Train Rider

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:43 PM

Also, re-establishment of service will require a full environmental impact statement, which may seem like a waste with an established track, but the law requires it to be done for such a thing.

 

And finally, never underestimate government's ability to overspend on infrastructure, regardless of type.


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#6 afigg

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 04:23 PM

 Short of equipment I do not understand why the estimates for restoring service are so high.

From what I see service should be able to be restored on a shoestring. Comments????????

NS reportedly estimated a $140 million cost 2 years ago for service extension to Roanoke. Either NS has come down in price or some of the current budget funds will go for Roanoke extension upgrades. But as to the cost, it has been many decades since there was passenger service over those tracks. NS and/or VDRPT may want passing sidings to be lengthened, double tracking, new crossovers, signal upgrades for 79 mph Class IV speeds, grade crossing upgrades & timing changes, track maintenance. For the stations, maybe NS wants the new/restored stations to be located on pull-over tracks to keep the line clear when a passenger train is at the station.

 

NS or a consulting firm was paid by VDRPT to do a study for the extension to Roanoke, there is a line item for it in the FY13 budget. That study may cover the EIS requirements, don't know. But as far I can tell, the breakdown of  or a report on the upgrades NS wants has not been made public. Until then, we can only guess as to what the $102 million is for. A google search turned up a 2002 study on recommended upgrades for passenger service to Richmond, Roanoke, and Bristol. I've only skimmed it but there are passing sidings, double tracks, various upgrades discussed in it.

 

As for the old stations, may be expensive to return them to use if they have been repurposed and leased/sold to a private company. The stations will have to be ADA compliant and have to provide level boarding capability. If the stations are on pull-over tracks, then maybe the stations will get full length high level platforms. Otherwise, mini-highs with bridge plates probably if Amtrak projects the station to get more than 7500 passengers a year.

All adds up.



#7 Ryan

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 04:47 PM

FOr comparison, what did NS charge for the recent extension to Norfolk?
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#8 Anderson

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 04:48 PM

The plan is the classic definition of a "mess", and not all of the elements have been clear.  Basically, one element of the gas/sales tax switch was about $55 million per year for intercity passenger rail and $65 million per year for a mass transit fund.  None of this was spelled out in the initial proposal, which focused on the tax swap.  $55 million to each comes from a $15 increase in vehicle registration fees, and the additional $10+ per year for mass transit comes from an electric vehicle tax (link: http://lis.virginia.... SB1355F122 PDF ).

I don't take the plan as running 6 additional trains, at least if my understanding of the state's situation is correct.  I believe that the capital costs of the existing trains and the hike in NS's fees on the Lynchburg train are going to require a modest level of funding, but I'm not sure exactly what that level is going to be.  As to the Norfolk stuff, that's already been planned but not funded.  Currently, VA has 6 trains that they're taking over: 5 Richmond/Hampton Roads plus the Lynchburger.  $45 million over 6 years translates into $7.5 million per year, which only breaks out to $1.25 million per train.  That's really too low for new trains unless you're just gushing money...might work for Roanoke, but not overall I don't suspect.  Here's a rundown of what I'm thinking:

 

$102 million for extending passenger service to Roanoke, mostly spent by FY2016. Self-explanatory.  Probably gets the state 2-3 slots, but who knows if they'll use them right off the bad.

$79 million for passenger service to Norfolk (upgrades, Appomattox bridge perhaps?)  There's a package of upgrades already worked out.  A lot of this is re-routing the train in the Suffolk area: There's a track they wanted to use, but the condition was lousy.  This will all cut some time off, as I understand it.

$35 million for passenger service to Newport News (further out in FY16 to FY18)  Likely a mix of work relating to the new NPN station (which will cut a couple minutes off the trip by virtue of its location) and a yard bypass and/or some track work in Richmond to fix some of the bottlenecks there that happen all the time and cut RVR-RVM times.

$47 million for capacity Richmond to DC  (FY16 to FY18)  Probably up in Alexandria between the Long Bridge and the CSX/NS split.

$45 million total over 6 years for 6 PRIIA trains. Allowance for current trains, new equipment charges, plus a buffer for bad years.  VA is in the black under existing operating formulas, but the costs associated with PRIIA are fairly substantial as they effectively add full capital costs to the formula.  With that said, given ridership trends, VA may not use all of this.

 

Those are just my guesses; when I can tell you more I will tell you more.


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#9 benjibear

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 05:25 PM

Glad to see VA is pro-Amtrak.  For the Ronaoke extension are there any other stations that will need added?



#10 afigg

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:12 PM

I don't take the plan as running 6 additional trains, at least if my understanding of the state's situation is correct.  I believe that the capital costs of the existing trains and the hike in NS's fees on the Lynchburg train are going to require a modest level of funding, but I'm not sure exactly what that level is going to be.  As to the Norfolk stuff, that's already been planned but not funded.  Currently, VA has 6 trains that they're taking over: 5 Richmond/Hampton Roads plus the Lynchburger.  $45 million over 6 years translates into $7.5 million per year, which only breaks out to $1.25 million per train.  That's really too low for new trains unless you're just gushing money...might work for Roanoke, but not overall I don't suspect.  Here's a rundown of what I'm thinking:

I compared the operating subsidy and capital charges in the FY13 Six year Improvement Plan with the table from the McDonnell press release and the amounts are the same for each year. So, yes, the funding plan is for 6 VA Regional trains total. Although that can change in the outlying years if ridership and demand grows and the capacity is added by the track improvements. The additional funds are the capital funds for the corridor improvements, $264 million over 5 years.

/

If the Obama Administration can succeed in getting through Congress some funding for high speed / intercity passenger rail, perhaps in an expanded TIGER grant program, the funds VA could have for the NFK, NPN, WAS-Richmond corridors might be used to provide the 20% state match component. The Richmond Main Street to NFK and NPN corridors now have a Tier 1 EIS, the Richmond to Petersburg segment is covered by the SEHSR Tier 2 FEIS for Richmond to Raleigh, ALX to RVM is funded for Tier II EIS work over the next few years. The website for the Long Bridge study says there is to be a final report by summer 2013. (The conclusions and recommendations of the Long Bridge report should be an interesting read).

 

So if McDonnell gets these funds in the budget, VDRPT might pull out specific projects on the corridor that have the EIS to back them up and submit applications for 80% federal funding. Use $10 million in state money to get $40 million in federal money. Helps to be a state that is willing and able to put decent amounts of funding for passenger rail projects. Meanwhile the state can provide all the funds for the Roanoke extension which will allow the work to get started and completed more quickly.



#11 Anderson

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 11:59 PM

Well, and as much as I hate to say it, a stable pot of money means that if federal money becomes available, the state can dive at it and slide outer-year planning around.  They can also arguably commit money from multiple years to the fund as well...and there's a likely indirect transfer in the medium term if the VRE step-up charge gets cut (cutting it from $5 to $2 has been suggested).  Mass transit money could be "back doored" to Amtrak Virginia that way, and VRE capacity issues have brought that out as a viable proposal as I understand it.  I do, for what it's worth, expect the actual state need for the capital charges/operating subsidies to come in a bit low for the foreseeable future.  VA has been killing the estimates year in and year out, after all (the margin went from $3.7 million in FY11 to $8.6 million in FY12, and the state is on course to break that margin record again unless the Norfolk train seriously tanks the results).


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#12 railiner

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 02:49 PM

Glad to see VA is pro-Amtrak.  For the Ronaoke extension are there any other stations that will need added?

The Amtrak 'Hilltopper', used to make a flag stop at Bedford, between Lynchburg and Roanoke.....


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#13 JoeSF

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 04:23 PM

The magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright designed Union Station still stands and is in top shape.

Sorry, but Frank Lloyd Wright did not design the Roanoke or any other train station. The closest he got to doing so is the original design for the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison WI, which had a train station in the ground floor. A replica of Wright's design was built 40 years after his death, minus the train station (no trains to Madison at the time). When the state was planning to run Talgos to Madison, one of the proposed station sites was at Monona Terrace. 



#14 afigg

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 01:02 PM

The Amtrak 'Hilltopper', used to make a flag stop at Bedford, between Lynchburg and Roanoke.....

The route map for the TransDominion Express concept has a station in Bedford. Which is a logical place to add a stop to provide service for the region between Lynchburg and Roanoke.



#15 SouthernServesTheSouth

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Posted 28 January 2013 - 10:46 PM

No tracks to/from Farmville. Tracks torn up ROW given to state for the High Bridge State Park.
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#16 jis

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 08:20 AM

No tracks to/from Farmville. Tracks torn up ROW given to state for the High Bridge State Park.

I must admit I was a bit puzzled too about how they'd get to Farmville.Weren't they planning to use the old NW via Abilene? Or am I just completely confused and remember something wrong? Which of those old NW routes are still in place?



#17 abcnews

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:31 PM

The Farmville stop was on the old N & W mainline between Petersburg and Roanoke. That line is now a very nice bike trail - and NS is using another route between Petersburg & Roanoke - I think it was part of the original "Virginian Railway" Right of way.


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#18 abcnews

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:38 PM

Hats off to the Governor - he actually went to Roanoke to pitch his plan - and his main focus was Amtrak coming to Roanoke. He is very positive about rail travel in Virginia.

 

I also heard that the State of VA is actually in the black on the Lynchburger. The formula called for state subsidies, but with a cash payout of a percentage of ticket sales.

 

Well the state has actually made money on the train - not a loss. What a pleasant surprise. VA get a percentage of every Amtrak ticket sold for the train (the Virginia stations). So if a passenger goes from Lynchburg to NY - VA keeps a percentage. That additional revenue has exceeded the subsidies.


Edited by abcnews, 29 January 2013 - 04:41 PM.

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#19 abcnews

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 04:40 PM

I also heard that they run busses from Lynchburg to Roanoke to connect to and from the Lynchburg train - and the buses are having high demand. So Roanoke is certainly doing their part to get real rail service.


Edited by abcnews, 29 January 2013 - 04:42 PM.

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#20 Anderson

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 06:00 PM

Hats off to the Governor - he actually went to Roanoke to pitch his plan - and his main focus was Amtrak coming to Roanoke. He is very positive about rail travel in Virginia.

 

I also heard that the State of VA is actually in the black on the Lynchburger. The formula called for state subsidies, but with a cash payout of a percentage of ticket sales.

 

Well the state has actually made money on the train - not a loss. What a pleasant surprise. VA get a percentage of every Amtrak ticket sold for the train (the Virginia stations). So if a passenger goes from Lynchburg to NY - VA keeps a percentage. That additional revenue has exceeded the subsidies.

"In the black" doesn't begin to cover it.  VA's situation is about to get surreal...supposing that they don't somehow fail to fund the trains on paper, it's an open question as to how much capital funding they're actually going to need.  The Lynchburger is sometimes the most profitable segment of the Amtrak system in terms of operating ratio; otherwise, it's second-only to the Acela in terms of operating and overhead versus revenue.  Last year, it brought in $3.7 million before any capital charges on $11.8 million in revenue ($.2 million more than FY11, but there was also a sharp increase in indicated costs).  Most of that revenue was farebox, some was OBS, but none was from VA.  Likewise, the Washington-Richmond-Hampton Roads run has swung fairly deep into the black ($4.7 million net on $35.8 million overall versus $.2 million the year before, with only a $.4 million increase in costs).

 

So...I'm not sure what the situation is going to look like as of next October at all.  I've seen conflicting figures...the $6 million capital charge allowance from the state may or may not be needed in whole (some of the formulas are set to change, as are some access fees), but I do know that those estimates didn't take into account these continuing bumps in ridership.


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