remember the rail?

Brent Finnegan -- September 27th, 2007

Remember all that talk a few years back about the “rail solution” to the I-81 truck problem? Apparently, that’s been wiped off the drawing board. WSVA is reporting that the Commonwealth Transportation Board has ommited the rail component of the upgrade plans for 81:

The omission of rail is part of the latest phase of the study on the I-81 project. Board chairman Bill Kyger says rail makes financial sense so he can’t understand why the option is no longer on the radar screen.

County Administrator Joe Paxton will send the letter to the CTB requesting that a rail component be put back into the plans. The same letter will be sent to localities on the I-81 corridor from Frederick County to Bristol.

22 Responses to “remember the rail?”

  1. Frank J Witt says:

    That’s funny he should say that In the report that aired yesterday, the committee said with the huge amounts of upgrades to the rail system, it would not make financial sense. If the trucking companies did not want to send their loads per rail, then the amount would be raised. More truck to come ! Yee-Haw!

  2. Frank J Witt says:

    Something happened here.

    What I meant to get across is the fact that the trucking companies, by not moving their freight by rail, the rail companies cannot generate the monies needed for updates to the system. And without the updates, the freight will have to be moved up 81 but with more truck traffic.

    That is more like what I wanted to say.

  3. Thanh says:

    There was some interesting discussion on this WSVA Issues in Growth radio show on transportation issues – . This show aired this month (September), and if I recall correctly a caller commented (rather frustratedly, but sincerely) that the rail companies are gearing up and making improvements to their railways in anticipation that frieghts will make more financial sense to move via rail than truck because of fuel prices (I don’t know if that’s true or not, haven’t looked up the facts, but it seems possible). There was also some discussion on VDOT’s projections for how much vehicular traffic would be traveling I-81 in the future. This show was pretty interesting. Vice Mayor Pace also discusses some of the upcoming road improvements and additions in Harrisonburg. Anyone interested in listening to other previous Issues in Growth shows can check them out here –

  4. Rail is predominantly driven by diesel-powered engines…and my trip up I-81 today showed me that diesel was about $.25 more/gallon that is gasoline.

    Additionally, just-in-time inventory methods cannot work effectively on a rail-based transportation infrastructure.

  5. Thanh says:

    I am by no means an expert on vehicles, engines or fuel, but I wanted to bring up one point/thought. Although the price of diesel is higher than gasoline “($) per gallon”… What we also need to consider is the “miles per gallon” that each type of engine and fuel gets. Diesel and gasoline are not equivalent in energy provided per gallon.

    I found this information on MSN “diesels are known for getting extra mileage out of every gallon of fuel. They offer better torque than many gasoline engines”.

    Here’s another reference I found on gasoline vs. diesel:

    I am by no means advocating that diesel or trains are the answer (I don’t have an answer, and I haven’t developed an opinion yet, need to do more research), just offering food for thought to everyone.

    Off the cuff, I would think that mass transit and freight transport provided by something like a rail system would be better than all the cars and trucks on I-81 or on any road for that matter. Personally, I would love it if I could take a commuter train from Harrisonburg, or somewhere close, up to Dulles Airport, near where my parents live. I could spend my time reading or meeting new people, instead of trapped by myself in my car.

  6. Thanh says:

    Can somebody help me find the official website, or documentation for the upgrade plans for I-81? I’ve searched both the VDOT page and the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s websites and I’m just not having any luck. Thanks in advance.

  7. David Troyer says:

    I drive a Diesel-powered vehicle and get 42/49 mpg. I could probably get 50 interestate if I drove a bit slower :-).

    As result, I buy diesel year-round and 6 months out of the year it is $.25 cheaper than gasoline. From what I understand, many refineries that process diesel in the spring and summer are converted to home heating oil refineries in the fall and winter months which creates a smaller supply of diesel and therefore a higher price as well.

    What does it matter, the 18-wheelers competing with rail are also diesel-powered.

  8. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Parts of the upper valley are already becoming bedroom communities for DC, so they better consider rail upgrades throughout the valley (Just in case you didn’t know, most passenger rail operates on freight lines).

    I think something Frank may have been hinting at in his first post is a report that came out about a week ago on rail infrastructure. A study commissioned by the rail industry said that 135 billion dollars in infrastructure investment must be made over the next 28 years. The American Association of
    Railroads also predicted that without the upgrades, truck traffic previously moved to rail would switch back to the highways.

    It’s never easy is it?

  9. Karl, I was looking for the article about which you spoke, but have had no luck…thnks for the back-up though.

    Dave, would it be true that rail would get discounts on volume they purchase? Seems it SHOULD be cheaper using the Wal-Mart mentality !

    Speaking of trains…I hear one now !

  10. Thanh says:

    Thanks Dave Briggman. I also found that page, but its outdated (June 07). I guess they haven’t updated to reflect the latest decisions or documents. The Transportation Board’s website is updated to reflect their September meeting, but I didn’t see anything on this I-81 issue. Oh well. I do realize that not everything can be put up onto the web right away, and also not everything can be made available on the web. Thanks!

  11. Thanh says:

    Karl Magenhofer, do you know the name of that document you are refering to? Or where I can find it? Thanks.

  12. Karl Magenhofer says:

    Thanh, I’ll see what I can do about finding that and hopefully provide a link.

  13. CC says:

    Here is some additional information that may help:

    The Norfolk Southern projections for the Crescent Corridor:
    *remove 750,000 trucks off I-81
    * rail can move freight five times further than trucks with one third the carbon emissions
    * rail upgrade cost $2 billion across many states, versus $11 billion to widen I-81 in VA
    *no tolls on local drivers

  14. Frank J Witt says:

    This particle heading is the reason I like this forum so much!


  15. JDHV says:

    If you want to know more about Norfolk Southern’s plans for the I-81 corridor, go to
    and click “Presentation Slides” or google “Norfolk Southern” and “Cresent Corridor.”

    Maybe WSVA could invite a Norfolk Southern representative to be a guest so listeners can hear something other than the VDOT company line.

  16. Karl Magenhofer says:

    This Norfolk Southern guy…is he running for Clerk of the Court? Seriously, once we get out of the election cycle I think it could be a possibility to have NS on.

    This would be a great topic for the folks at WVPT to discuss on one of their local talk shows. Wait, they canned all those. A better bet would be Chris Graham on his AFP or ND shows.

  17. Bubby says:

    Rail Solution has lots of info:

    What they have been advocating is a multi-state intermodal concept between Harrisburg, PA and Knoxville, TN. That makes it work for truckers and related industries.

    FYI: NS buys diesel by the boatload, and it is off-road…they pay taxes in other ways. The new GE locomotives are exceptionally efficient.

  18. Frank J Witt says:

    The info is starting to go global but this article has a way of how to save alot of fuel.

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