Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Amtrak Special Carrying GOP Congressmen to Political Retreat Strikes Truck in Virginia, 1 Dead

January 31, 2018

One person was killed and five others injured when an Amtrak train carrying 100 Republican members of Congress, their aides and their families to a political retreat struck a garbage truck in Virginia on Wednesday.

Killed was an occupant of the truck. Three people were transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center, including one who the hospital reported was in critical condition. Two others were taken to another medical facility.

None of the members of Congress, which included House Speaker Paul Ryan, were seriously injured, although Rep. Jason Lewis of Minnesota was taken to a hospital for a possible concussion.

News reports said that three congressmen who are doctors tended to the injured before emergency personnel arrived. They included Reps. Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Brad Wenstrup of Ohio

The congressmen were traveling to a conference being held at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The accident occurred at 11:20 a.m. on the Buckingham Branch Railroad in Crozet, Virginia, near near Lanetown and Marymart Farm roads.

The route is used by Amtrak’s tri-weekly Chicago-New York Cardinal, which is scheduled to depart and arrive in New York on Wednesdays.

“Today’s incident was a terrible tragedy,” Ryan tweeted later. “We are grateful for the first responders who rushed to the scene and we pray for the victims and their families. May they all be in our thoughts right now.”

Amtrak issued a statement saying that two of its crew members and two passengers on the train were taken to a hospital with minor injuries.

The train remained upright and did not derail. Photographs made at the scene showed damage to the lead locomotive.

The train had departed from Washington for the retreat, which is to start today and run through Friday.

The train was pulled by P42DC No. 145, the Phase III heritage locomotive. The train of Amfleet equipment had a trailing P42DC, No. 4

A GOP spokesman said the retreat will continue as scheduled.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it sent a Go-Team to the scene to investigate.

News reports said that U.S. Capital Police were on the scene. One account said that following the crash, police wearing dark clothing surrounded the train with weapons drawn.

They had been aboard the train and got off shortly after the train stopped.

Passengers aboard the train were put aboard buses to be taken the rest of the way to the Greenbrier.


Virginia Group Calls for Increased Rail Service

January 17, 2018

A Virginia rail passenger advocacy group is seeking to triple the number of trains serving Norfolk, Virginia.

A report released by Virginians for High Speed Rail calls for increasing the number of Amtrak trains departing Norfolk each day from one to 11. Nine of those new frequencies would operate at 90 mph to Washington, which would reduce the current travel time by an hour.

The State of Virginia recently said it plans to fund another roundtrip to Norfolk in 2019 and a third roundtrip in 2022.

The report by the passenger advocacy group said increasing rail service would reduce traffic congestion, cut pollution and grow the economy.

Also in the report is a proposal to instigate rail service to Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg and Radford University in Radford.

In their report, the Virginia group said that before service can be increased scheduling and technology issues must be addressed.


Roanoke Eyes Building Amtrak Station

November 20, 2017

Now that Amtrak is serving Roanoke, Virginia, the city is now talking about building a train station.

Roanoke City Manager Robert Cowell said a deal is not imminent, but the city council has meet four times in secret sessions to discuss transit facilities, including acquisition of property to build a new mass-transit passenger center that could serve Amtrak.

“It’s a pretty fairly complex set of questions that the council is really wrestling with, never mind how to pay for any of this,” Cowell said.

Roanoke city buses are currently served by the Campbell Court bus station, which belongs to Valley Metro, and is located 250 feet from the railroad tracks used by Amtrak.

The three-floor facility is largely vacant and described as antiquated.

One idea being floated in the city is to build a multi-modal facility near the tracks and repurpose Campbell Court into stores, offices and housing.

The city had budgeted $4.5 million for the intermodal station project, which is less than half of what a consultant estimated the facility would cost.

Valley Metro does not own any land adjacent to the railroad tracks used by Amtrak.

City council member David Trinkle said the council is looking at creating a public-private partnership. “There’s just no way that facility is going to be built without that,” he said.

The council has justified its closed door meetings to discuss the proposed intermodal facility as consideration of the purchase of “real property” for public use or the “disposition” of the 13 real estate parcels that make up Campbell Court, or both, according to a purpose statement for the meetings.

The council has cited a clause in Virginia’s open meetings law that allows for when meeting publicly would “adversely affect” its bargaining power or negotiating strategy.

The Roanoke Times reported that there are four obvious locations for a train and bus station near the tracks.

These properties immediately adjacent to the Amtrak boarding platform include a renovated buildings known as Warehouse Row, which are leased to tenants; the Roanoke Station Garage, a parking deck; the surface parking lot across from Campbell Court operated by Tennessee-based Premier Parking; and the corner of Jefferson Street and Norfolk Avenue, occupied by multiple commercial buildings with tenants.

Bristol Eyes Luring Amtrak to Come to Town

April 20, 2017

Public officials in Bristol, Virginia, plan to launch a study of what it would take to entice Amtrak to serve their region.

City officials plan to work with the Community Transportation Association of America in Washington to secure a consulting firm that will undertake a $450,000 economic benefit study of extending Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service from Roanoke, Virginia, to Bristol.

“We’re just about ready to prepare the RFP [request for proposals] for that study, and hopefully it will begin this summer,” CTAA spokesman Rich Sampson said Tuesday. “What we’re hoping our study will do is be a precursor to a second study, by demonstrating the need and the benefits of such a service. DRPT [Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation] would then do a study on the operational feasibility of the service.”

Amtrak expects to begin serving Roanoke later this year by extending a Northeast Regional train that now terminates in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Sampson said the state of Virginia is going to want two years of ridership data of the Roanoke service before it will participate in the Bristol study.

Bristol Mayor Bill Hartley said having Amtrak service would benefit his city in many ways.

“I look at what passenger rail could do for our downtown,” he said. “With two hotels, one hopefully opening this year, and the restaurants and entertainment, the infrastructure is there for people to come and make Bristol more of a destination.”

Some funding for the study will come from a $250,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and $50,000 each from the city and CTAA, with CTAA also providing services as an in-kind contribution.

Once it gets underway, the Bristol study is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

“Virginia is perhaps the leading state right now in investing in new Amtrak service,” Sampson said. “They have three examples of where they have or are going to install new service — the Lynchburg train, the Norfolk train and the extension to Roanoke. Tennessee has not had any state support for inter-city passenger rail, so their level of involvement and interest is uncertain at this point.”

Although Bristol leaders once talked about getting support for service further southward to Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then creating a connecting service to Atlanta and Louisville, those routes won’t be part of the expected study of extending service from Roanoke.

Sampson said that expansion to Tennessee point won’t happen unless rail service first comes to Bristol.