July 31, 2013
Virginia is mapping out its long-term rail plans, and on the public's wish list is train service from Charlottesville to Richmond.
But achieving that wish may be easier said than done, despite the interest from many riders.
"I think it's an excellent idea," Louisa resident Beverly Jackson said. "I don't drive to Richmond, and I would certainly go if I could go by rail."
"I would be very interested if they were ever to expand it to go east and west," said Lynchburg resident Shannon Whealton.
But Meredith Richards, chair of the Piedmont Rail Coalition, said the service isn't on the fast track.
"I hate to say it, but that's not in the plan," she said.
The state is focusing more on plans to improve existing service and infrastructure, mostly in the Hampton Roads area.
"It's where the population centers are and so much of the growth and the economic prosperity for the state is," Richards said.
Supporters of the plan say investment in train travel will take a number of cars off the road and that it's less harmful to the environment. But many people questioned if the government should invest in the service.
"I personally don't foresee there being a big demand for that route," UVa student Evan Hall said.
"The state government puts money into so many things, I would certainly be one to support that," Jackson said. "Yes, indeed."
There might be a silver lining. Part of the rail plan includes connecting Lynchburg to Richmond. Once that's complete, the state can focus more on service expansion in Central Virginia. There's still a catch.
"There's a Lynchburg to Richmond connection, but it's way at the end of a dozen other projects," Richards said.
Similar plans include increasing frequency on the Lynchburg-to-Charlottesville corridor, which has proven to be successful and profitable. There are also plans to build a rail line connecting Lynchburg to Roanoke.
Another potential problem with service from Charlottesville to Richmond is that the train would take passengers to the Staples Mill station in Henrico County, not to Richmond's Main Street Station.
However, Richards says that's no reason for anyone to stop contacting lawmakers and advocating for the expanded service.