SRich wrote: ↑Tue Oct 05, 2021 2:27 pm
Will the new (double) track be electrified, maybe one double stack height?
I don't think there is any electric heavy rail in Virginia, aside from Metro, nor plans for it. Electrification is not in the approved plans for Southeast High Speed Rail.
Richmond - Raleigh, NC, is likely to be the first segment of SEHSR, maybe starting construction within ten years. Maybe second in line for upgrade work is Raleigh - Charlotte. The segment of SEHSR from Charlotte to Atlanta is the wild card. Will Georgia's split politics to lead to anything? Will Georgia elect pro-Amtrak politicians? If not, would Congress shove money that way to get them on board? Would Georgia go out of bounds and look for a Brightline private railroad? In other words, more like North Carolina, Alabama, or Florida?
As an example of Congress shoving money in paradoxical directions, a major academic physics facility went to Florida State University instead of an MIT-Harvard-etc. coalition in Boston.
The politics of Amtrak can be odd. Somewhat conservative states can support it with local funds, but in the last decade or two more conservative states have rejected helping to fund it.
In Virginia, there's an election in November. While NC and VA spend big buckets of money on rail, it's still not enough to fund truly high speed rail. In Virginia at least, vast sums have gone to private railroads to keep them happy and improve mixed pax-freight lines. Now that the state has bought a few hundred miles of rail, that should change, and there will be pax-only trackage.
North Carolina has owned Raleigh - Charlotte since the mid-1800's, but private railroad has rights and that corridor will remain mixed pax-freight even with SEHSR I believe.
Station issues in Virginia:
* Newport News: out to the burbs next year, as a hack transit center with local bus service to the more-or-less nearby airport. Airports without bus service are a pet peeve of mine, not to mention without rail. The airport currently has no bus or rail service. Downtown NN and Hampton are about nine miles away, and no rail to them is planned. With the Amtrak station relocated, CSX gets an open freight line approaching its big port. Also, there's a history in NN of federal support to the private shipyard, with its 25,000 employees. For now that does not include rail. The first federal housing construction program in the U.S. was a public-private project for white-color workers at NN Shipbuilding, in 1918. It's still a valuable neighborhood, on the James River, called Hilton Village. (The Second World War sequel to this program was a much bigger one that funded Fred Trump, in NY and Norfolk.) The city is negotiating with a residential developer that owns a big parcel nearby, along the CSX mainline, the part that will be freight-only after next year.
* Norfolk: got the SEHSR prequel improvements instead of Newport News / Hampton. The station is downtown-adjacent and across a parking lot from the light-rail line. In actual downtown Norfolk, there's a fifteen minute ferry to Portsmouth, run by the regional transit agency. Extending the light rail to Virginia Beach, the most most populous city* in the state, with the tallest building, is still faintly possible. Amtrak runs a bus. (*Two-fifths the population of Fairfax County, though.)
* Christiansburg / Blacksburg: the station when service starts will be a bit closer to Virginia Tech than originally planned. And the Amtrak segment to Roanoke will be pax-only. The trip from VT to its partner Amazon HQ2 at Crystal city will be a shuttle to Amtrak, to Alexandria and a three-minute walk overhead to Metro rail. The Metro station has been improved.
* Petersburg / Ettrick: some improvements to the station. It's not downtown, but it's near Virginia State University, an HBCU (historically black college/university).
* Ashland: not good. Pretty location though.
* Charlottesville: not well integrated to local or intercity buses. I wonder how much will be spent (some time after the current ten-year plan), on the state-owned part of Buckingham Branch (originally formed by CSX to slurp up short line subsidies), versus what it would cost to build a new rail corridor down I-64.
* Staunton: downtown-adjacent station. This city has done a good job drawing local, national and international talent and tourism with its resident Shakespeare theater and other projects. Helps to be on both I-64 and I-81. The Barter Theater in Abingdon once and maybe now has a similar national profile, but it's much further out on I-81 from places like D.C., and prospects for rail are dire.
* Williamsburg: central location, decent station, connected to local transit (except horse-drawn carriage). The college is eclipsing the historic village in popularity, and surely drives a lot of rail trips. Historic keeps raising its ticket prices, but such places have been a tough draw the last two decades, even marquee spots like Monticello. The big amusement park (owned by a beer company), and a separate kid-friendly all-inclusive lodge outside Billyburg do well I think, but probably don't drive much rail travel.
* Roanoke: downtown station. Amtrak reportedly exceeded expectations here and in Lynchburg.