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.
What VDOT has done:
1) Selected, to do the DEIS study, a firm that had been a member of STAR
Solutions. VHB resigned from STAR to be VDOT's contractor.
2) Structured the study to support as large an I-81 expansion as possible.
VDOT's preferred option involves some six-lane sections, but almost two-thirds
of I-81 in Virginia would be eight lanes or more.
3) Made tolls unavoidable, on both cars and trucks. There's simply no
other way to finance the huge $10 billion cost of a border-to-border I-81
4) Exaggerated the need for future capacity by projecting trucking growth
based on years of much lower fuel prices and without today's chronic driver
3) Shortchanged the role rail can play in reducing the scope of highway
construction, by failing to look beyond the 325 miles of I-81 in Virginia
to a multi-state corridor of sufficient length for effective through-freight
diversion to rail.
5) Developed desired findings in an Executive Summary, referencing technical
appendices for support. Told people the Executive Summary is all they
need to read.
6) Filled multiple volumes of technical appendices with numerical data,
graphs, and tables, even though much of it is scientifically meaningless,
full of errors, and does little or nothing to justify the reported findings.
What VDOT should have done:
1) Determine future levels of incremental freight capacity needed in the
2) Rigorously assess, through side-by-side comparison, the environmental
and economic costs of providing this level of new capacity via rail and
3) Embrace the lowest cost, lowest impact combination of new capacity.
Why is this important?
I-81 would be rebuilt over its 325-mile length. Tolls on I-81, while other
north/ south Interstates remain free, would adversely and unfairly impact
business, growth, and economic activity throughout Western Virginia. Additional
lanes and vast interchanges would displace homes and businesses and destroy
forests, farmland, and historic battlefields. Prolonged construction and
high tolls would discourage tourism.
A more sensible solution would be targeted improvements, aimed at capacity
chokepoints and safety problem areas. These could be: 1) started now,
not wait for a 15-year construction plan; 2) paid for like other Virginia
highway projects, not through tolls; and 3) put out for competitive bids
to encourage participation by local contractors and to save taxpayers
money, not guaranteed exclusively to STAR.
Furthermore, rail upgrades, through the $35 billion federal Railroad Rehabilitation
and Improvement Fund (RRIF), could increase capacity for handling through
intermodal freight in the Corridor, extending the life of highway improvements
and limiting their scope and urgency.
There is broad-based citizen support for a meaningful role for rail in
the future I-81 Corridor. Fifty local governments and MPOs have passed
resolutions in support of rail. People recognize that relying on ever
more lanes of pavement to solve each problem of congestion and growth
is not a viable transportation paradigm for the 21st Century. We can be
smarter in Virginia. We don't have to repeat mistakes made on the West
Coast and Northeastern U.S. at great cost to our economy and environment.
What do we need to know?
The public comment period on the DEIS is now running, and continues through
most of April. Tell VDOT that the people's views matter. The hearing schedule
is on www.I-81.org VDOT is dominated
by highway people who have spent their entire careers building roads and
want to go on building roads. The highway engineering and construction
lobby is a powerful ally. State and federal politicians are pushing hard,
To counter these entrenched interests, it is vital that there be input
from towns and counties in the Corridor. Many citizens' groups such as
Rockbridge Area Conservation Council, Shenandoah Valley Network, and RAIL
Solution have spent a lot of time and effort analyzing the DEIS and its
shortcomings. We can be helpful to you in providing additional materials
and information to facilitate your filing of comments.
But most importantly, you must do this now, during the public
David L. Foster, Executive Director
342 High Street, Salem, VA 24153
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