Families concerned about high-speed rail plans in Hanover

Families concerned about high-speed rail plans in Hanover

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - A high-speed rail project that would connect Richmond to Washington, D.C. is upsetting one community in Central Virginia. That's because the high-speed rail would go straight through the city of Ashland.

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation, or DRPT, proposed changes to the existing railway through Ashland. It wants to add a third line and build a new commuter train station with a parking deck.

"When I first saw their proposal to put a new train station in Ashland, I asked, 'have you talked to the College about that, because you're talking about putting it on college land?' They said, 'no, we haven't.' and I said, 'you have to!'" said Ashland Mayor and Randolph-Macon College professor, Dr. George Spagna.

"We have found out about this later in the process than I would like," said Robert Lindgren, President of Randolph-Macon College.

Lindgren describes the proposed train station as an elevated commuter station, three football fields long, with a large parking complex. He says to imagine the Staples-Mill station in the middle of campus.

"I'm getting signals from the Town Council that they are supporting our position, or will be supporting our position perhaps in a resolution next week, that would oppose this site for a rail station," said Lindgren.

Another piece of this proposal is the third track. This would keep freight and passenger trains on separate lines so the passenger trains load and unload faster.

"Third track would be a disaster, it would wipe out the northbound side of Center Street and Railroad Avenue, it would eliminate parking, it would eliminate some of the most valuable homes in town," said Spagna.

DRPT offered another option: an elevated bypass around downtown - through the edge of Ashland and Hanover County.

"The bypass makes the most sense for the town," said Spagna.

The proposal that's in the best interest for the Town of Ashland and the College, is not necessarily the most ideal for the people that live outside of town.

One of those proposals would take a freight line and bring it out west of town, come right through someone's property and right through their new house. One of the groups representing the people who live out there say that line would impact 61 families who live on this corridor.

"We need a voice," said Sheila Tompkins with non-profit organization Families Under the Rail. "Since January, we've been asking DRPT to give us a conference. They have not called us, they have not reached out to us, and we've had no meeting whatsoever to look at other options other than this west Ashland bypass."

Families Under the Rail would like to see the rail built along the I-95 corridor instead.

DRPT says, "A series of public hearings will also accompany the release [this fall], so that all stakeholders will have ample opportunity to shape a preferred alternative."

The Hanover County Board of Supervisors says it doesn't approve of the bypass proposals but adds, it still needs more information from DRPT.

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