I-81 Freight Rail Study and Norfolk Southern Cresent Corridor compared and contrasted in new paper for CTB
Because both are rail intermodal efforts
affecting the I-81 Corridor, there has been public confusion over
what these two projects are and how they differ. In a new paper
prepared for the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting in Roanoke
on November 7, RAIL Solution details the differences and highlights
some curious ways the new NS direction departs from the vision of
its own CEO, Wick Moorman (2nd item below).
"I-81 Crescent Corridor" Initiative
RAIL Solution has been asked our views on
Norfolk Southern's recently announced "I-81 Crescent Corridor"
initiative. To understand its significance, one has to separate what's
old from what's new.
Norfolk Southern President, Chairman, and
CEO Charles "Wick" Moorman made a major address at Hotel
Roanoke, which he called a "coming out party" for the
railroad's I-81 strategy.
A Multi-State Plan Needs Multi-State Involvement
Solution is reaching out to Tennesseans,
Pennsylvanians, Marylanders, and
“Our neighbors need to know
that the H-1581 process offers opportunity
for significant transport- ation
improvements at less cost to taxpayers,
highway users and our environment
up and down the I-81 Corridor. These
citizens need to be pressing their
transportation planners to gain
access to the intermodal rail planning
RAIL Solution Exec. Dir.
Summary of RAIL Solution's Response to VDOT's Draft
Environmental Impact Statement
RAIL Solution press release: January
11, 2006 |
the final full version of RAIL Solution's response to the DEIS: April
Salem, VA - RAIL Solution today released its detailed
analysis of the I-81 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) issued
by the Virginia Department of Transportation in late November. The rail
advocacy group's comments focus primarily on how the DEIS treats freight
rail alternatives to massive highway widening, and are highly critical
of VDOT's methods and results.
The chief reason for understatement of rail potential in the I-81 Corridor,
according to RAIL Solution, is failure of the DEIS to look beyond the
325 miles of I-81 in Virginia. Three earlier state-funded studies had
determined that rail diversion of trucks in corridors of less than 500
miles is unlikely.
"We tried to prevent them setting up rail to fail by suggesting in
the public comment Scoping Process that the DEIS look at almost 600 miles
of the I-81 Corridor between Knoxville, TN and Harrisburg, PA," said
RAIL Solution Executive Director David Foster. "But although the
idea made it into the study as Rail Concept 4, including mention of our
suggested endpoints," noted Foster, "it's there in words only
and the analysis is strictly limited to Virginia."
The DEIS, known formally as the I-81 Corridor Improvement Study, assigned
the entire cost for rail upgrading in the 600-mile, five-state corridor
to the 325 miles in Virginia. Little truck diversion resulted, and Rail
Concept 4 was set aside as not costeffective.
The study instead selected Rail Concept 3 as the rail planning benchmark
for use with all highway options. The RAIL Solution response describes
Rail Concept 3 as too weak to do any good:
"Concept 3 is limited to 13 short segments of railroad within Virginia,
ranging in length from one-half mile to 10 miles, with most of them a
mile or two in length. With these few contemplated improvements, six additional
trains per day in each direction could be handled, with an average train
speed of 33 mph. Projections of truck diversions are virtually useless
and self-defeating if based on such meager rail enhancement. To divert
meaningful volumes of through trucks from I-81 in Virginia, the upgraded
rail line would need to be handle six new trains per hour, not per day."
RAIL Solution's response is also highly critical of the DEIS' technical
appendices, calling them "riddled with inaccuracies and inadequacies."
The DEIS relies extensively on two technical appendices known as the Freight
Diversion and Forecast Technical Report and the Transportation Technical
Report for its rail conclusions. They were not made public by VDOT until
"VDOT wants you to look only at the Executive Summary," Foster
said. He noted that in the days following release of the DEIS, study director
Fred Altizer appeared on television and gave media interviews touting
the finding that rail made little difference in the scope of highway construction
needed on I-81. More recently VDOT has distributed copies of the Executive
Summary to political leaders throughout the state. "They want you
to look at their findings but not how they got them," added Foster.
"There are so many errors in the technical appendices, even basic,
verifiable issues of fact, that it's hard to explain them through carelessness
or incompetence alone," Foster stated. "You almost have to see
purposeful misrepresentation there." The RAIL Solution response details
several pages of claimed errors and shortcomings.
In addition to confining the rail analysis within the borders of Virginia,
and flaws in the DEIS' technical support, RAIL Solution also claims rail
was prematurely ruled out because of lack of financing for rail upgrading.
The group quotes from page 3-9 of the DEIS: "There are currently
no federal highway funding categories that VDOT can use to implement improvements
to privately owned rail lines as part of this study." But VDOT did
not look beyond familiar highway funding:
"No evidence appears in the DEIS study that alternative sources of
funding for rail improvements were explored. For example, federal funding
may well be possible through Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing
(RRIF)," says the RAIL Solution paper. "Congress has set aside
$35 billion to loan to railroads and their public sector joint venture
partners to finance construction of new railroad infrastructure, rehabilitate
existing rail properties, and develop intermodal facilities."
"Remember how politicians were tripping over themselves to secure
an $800 million federal earmark for the STAR Solutions' dedicated truck
lanes?" quipped Foster. "And here is a federal program with
billions available for rail that no one seems to pay any attention to."
He noted that the money could fund a pilot project to demonstrate highway
freight diversion to rail through Virginia's I-81 Corridor.
"We can do things smarter in Virginia. Save the environment, reduce
cost, and help pioneer a model for a 21st Century transportation paradigm
for the nation," Foster said. "Gone are the days when we can
address every problem of congestion and growth by building more lanes
For more information please contact:
David L. Foster, Executive Director
342 High Street, Salem, VA 24153
Want to read the complete RAIL Solution's response?
Download PDF of the updated 21-page version.
June 7th at 10am
CSX's Innovative I-95 Corridor Proposal
Rail: Perpetually Underfunded
Tier 1 EIS
-Overview of DEIS.
-VDOT I-81 Site
-Write to VDOT>
-EIS Process Overview
-Letters to Editor
RAIL Solution's I-81 Transportation Issues & Priorities
Maximize Rail/ Minimize Road Expansion
-VA Gen. Assembly
-Analysis & Reports