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 former member of STAR Solutions.
2) Structured the study to support as large an I-81 expansion as possible.
3) Set up rail to be found ineffective in reducing the scope of highway
construction, by failing to look beyond the 325 miles of I-81 in Virginia
to a multistate corridor of sufficient length.
4) Developed desired findings and conclusions and presented them in an
Executive Summary, alluding frequently to the technical appendices for
support; then told people that the Executive Summary is all they need
5) Filled multiple volumes of technical appendices with numerical data,
graphs, and tables, even though the information is scientifically meaningless,
full of errors, and does little or nothing to justify the reported findings.
What VDOT should have done:
1) Project future levels of incremental capacity needed in the I-81 Corridor.
2) Rigorously assess, through side-by-side comparison, the environmental
and economic costs of providing this level of new capacity via rail expansion
and via highway construction.
3) Embrace the lowest cost, lowest impact combination of new capacity.
Why is this important to me?
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 resolve 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.
Although STAR Solutions' dedicated truck lanes are gone from the DEIS'
recommendations, I-81 would still be subject to a massive rebuilding from
border to border in Virginia. Some of it would be six lanes wide, but
almost two-thirds would be eight lanes or more. The road's footprint on
the land would be huge. The additional lanes and vast interchanges would
displace homes and businesses, destroy forests and farmland, and disrupt
historic battlefields. Prolonged construction would discourage tourism.
The cost is estimated at $10 billion. Such a project could be financed
only through tolls on cars and trucks. Tolls on I-81, while other north/south
Interstates remain free, would adversely and differentially impact business,
growth, and economic activity in Western Virginia.
A more sensible solution would be a plan of measured improvements, targeted
at capacity chokepoints and safety problem areas. These could begin now,
not wait for a 15-year construction plan to be finalized. They could be
paid for incrementally like all other Virginia highway projects, not through
tolls. They could be put out for competitive bids to encourage participation
by local contractors and to save taxpayers money, not guaranteed exclusively
At the same time rail upgrades, funded with federal loans, could increase
capacity for handling through intermodal freight in the Corridor, extending
the life of highway improvements and limiting their scope and urgency.
What do we need to do now?
The public comment period on the DEIS is now running, and continues open
until 10 days after the last public hearing is held. As of February 27
the schedule and location of hearings is expected any day. Watch for ones
in your area. Tell VDOT that the people's views matter. VDOT is dominated
by highway people who have spent their entire careers building roads.
They 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 preparation and 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