VDOT invites public comment on I-81 rail study

  
Staff Report
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The draft report of Virginia’s Interstate 81 Freight Rail Study was issued today for public comment by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and the Virginia Department of Transportation.

DRPT, in cooperation with the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, was directed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in October 2006, and later the General Assembly through the Appropriations Act of 2007, to conduct an I-81 Freight Rail Study in cooperation with VDOT’s Multimodal Office and Norfolk Southern Railway to identify short-term rail improvements and to study the potential diversion of truck traffic to rail along the I-81 corridor.

The I-81 Freight Rail Study outlines a strategic approach to maximizing the capacity of freight rail in the corridor and diverting more trucks from highways. A copy of the draft study is available online at www.drpt.virginia.gov/studies/default.aspx.

The study reviewed current and future estimated rail and truck use on I-81 and determined the number of trucks that could potentially be diverted based on several factors that influence freight shipment decisions. Of the potentially divertible trucks, the study estimates a potential truck-to-rail diversion of between 965,000 and 1.6 million truck trips per year by 2035, depending on the adopted strategy.

The study evaluates strategies based on feasibility and potential to divert truck traffic from highways to rail in the I-81 corridor. Included was the consideration of open technology in which trucks and their trailers are rolled onto trains for long haul shipments.

The I-81 corridor in Virginia includes the region defined as the Crescent Corridor. The Crescent Corridor initiative is a Norfolk Southern multi-state initiative to establish a high-speed intermodal freight rail route between the Gulf Coast and the Northeast. The Commonwealth has programmed more than $95 million to support the development of the initiative. In addition, Virginia is supporting a $300 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program application to support new intermodal facilities, expansion of existing intermodal terminals and track improvements across the five partner states.

The action plan to maximize feasible truck-to-rail diversion is focused on rail capacity and infrastructure improvements. The study offers the following three recommendations:
– Advance the Crescent Corridor
– Investigate other potentially feasible truck to rail diversion strategies
– Continue to advance improvements identified in the I-81 Tier I Environmental Impact Statement

While the study confirms that rail has a significant role to play in providing congestion relief in the I-81 corridor, highway improvements will also be necessary to accommodate the projected 111-percent increase in truck traffic along the corridor by 2035.

The public is invited to provide comments on this draft study no later than Feb. 10, 2010, using any of the following methods:
– Send e-mail to drptpr@drpt.virginia.gov
– Write to Public Information Office, DRPT, 600 E. Main St., Suite 2102, Richmond, VA 23219
– Fax comments to 804.225.3752

  

         
 

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