Organization continues effort for high-speed rail

Members of the Virginia-North Carolina Interstate High Speed Rail Compact met earlier this month in Richmond to discuss federal and state program initiatives, affordability and future plans to initiate a high-speed rail system throughout the two states.

The organization’s goal during the June 7 meeting at the General Assembly was to discuss how to provide transportation options for the public and seek ways to increase potential ridership by making train service as convenient as possible.

The Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR) was established in 1992 to provide rail transportation from Washington D.C. through Richmond and Petersburg in Virginia to Raleigh and Charlotte in North Carolina. The SEHSR will connect to Boston in the Northeast corridor and will now extend south to places such as Atlanta and Macon, Ga., and Jacksonville, Fla.

“Because of the economy and gas process, people want options to get from point A to point B,” state Senator Yvonne B. Miller (D-5th District) said. “They are getting frustrated when they are stuck in line. The only reason they’re not revolting now is because of the music and all the distractions in the car.”

The Virginia members of the initiative expressed concerns that things are not moving quickly enough toward the implementation of high-speed rail. It’s difficult for Virginians to get excited about a train that may not arrive for 20 to 30 years, they said, and that lack of momentum has had a huge effect on the public’s support for the idea.

“We need them to be vocal with the state. There needs to be a ground swell from the people who want to use the trains,” Miller said. “I don’t think we can sit and hold hands expecting to get that 20 percent match. We need to have a meeting this election year.”

Service is planned throughout Virginia and North Carolina. Individual projects include Raleigh to Charlotte; Washington D.C. to the Richmond area; the Richmond area to Petersburg and Raleigh; and Petersburg to Norfolk.

Virginians need to convince federal officials that high-speed rail is a priority, speakers said.

“There is a risk of payback. We run the risk of not achieving the benefits,” said Kevin Page, chief of Rail Transportation for Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). “We still face challenges with the federal program, the future of the program and the sustainability of the program.”

Page brought up several problems that the rail development faces today and suggested that a strategy was necessary if the state’s goals for high-speed rail are to have any promise of sustainability.

“There are many questions about looking toward the future,” he said. “Today, divided states need to compete against each other for funds. With $600 million worth of projects, there needs to be a long term funding strategy that can keep everything funded.”

There seems to be a lack of consistency in the Federal Railroad Administration’s state requirements. North Carolina submitted a 90 mph project while Virginia submitted a 70 mph project. North Carolina’s agreement states that the goal is a 79 mph project with a study to achieve 90 mph, but Virginia’s agreement has required a 90 mph project with an additional crossover at Arkendale.

Miller suggested putting Hampton Roads more prominently on the high-speed rail map. Since the area houses military members, such service there could improve efficiency for them and others in the community, she said.

“There is an omission of the military aspect,” Miller said. “Roads are jammed, and they will take the military out if we don’t improve the rail service or the highway.”

The FRA’s High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Fund List reveals that Virginia is entitled to only $120 million in funding (11th nationally), while California is receiving $4.239 billion, Illinois is receiving $1.379 billion and North Carolina is receiving $572 million.

Funding for the SEHSR comes from the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and from the states of Virginia and North Carolina. Both states currently fund several Amtrak operated non-high speed rail services as well as their own locomotives and passenger cars.

The SEHSR’s first large section including the cities in Virginia and North Carolina up to Washington D.C. is scheduled to begin service 2018 and 2022.

Those present at this month’s meeting are planning a trip to Washington D.C. in September or October to stand together before the Senate and House members from both states to lobby for rail development sooner rather than later.
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Henrico Doctors’ Hospitals named to nation’s top 100


HCA Virginia's Henrico Doctors' Hospitals recently was named one of the nation’s 100 top hospitals by Truven Health Analytics, a provider of information and solutions that support healthcare cost and quality improvement.

Henrico Doctors’ Hospitals consists of three community hospitals – Henrico (Forest), Parham, and Retreat Doctors’ Hospitals – and two freestanding emergency departments, West Creek Emergency Center and Hanover Emergency Center. Henrico Doctors’ Hospitals specializes in heart and stroke care, women’s health, oncology, orthopedics, urology, and behavioral health. > Read more.

Henrico residents invited to share design ideas for new Fairfield Area Library


Henrico County Public Library is planning community meetings March 28-29 and April 1 to receive input from county residents on the design of a new Fairfield Area Library. Meetings will be held at the Fairfield Area Library, 1001 N. Laburnum Ave., and at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, 1440 N. Laburnum Ave.

Architects from BCWH, Inc. will join library staff for the meetings, which will feature discussions and seek ideas on spaces and services for specific age groups as well as designs for the entire facility. > Read more.

Virginia529 enrollment period closes March 31


Time is running out to enroll in a program to prepay tuition at Virginia public colleges and universities. The current enrollment window for Virginia529's Prepaid529 ends March 31. Nearly 50,000 Virginia students have funded college costs through this program since it began 20 years ago.

Prepaid529 allows families to purchase semesters of tuition and mandatory fees for newborn children through ninth graders. Semester prices vary based on the age of the beneficiary. > Read more.

Henrico Police seek Northside robbery suspect


MAR. 21, 9:30 A.M. – Henrico Police are seeking the man who robbed a Wells Fargo Bank on Brook Road Monday evening.

At approximately 5 p.m. March 20, police responded to the bank, in the 8100 block of Brook Road, after reports that a white male had entered the business and presented a note demanding money. > Read more.

Baker students to be shifted to other schools temporarily

MAR. 20, 5:31 P.M. – Students at Varina's Baker Elementary – which is closed following a fire Sunday – will be moved to other schools temporarily while repair work is completed at Baker, school system officials announced today.

The school was closed today and will be closed Tuesday, but beginning Wednesday pre-K students and those in the Early Childhood Special Education Program will temporarily attend school at the New Bridge Learning Center, 5915 Nine Mile Road.

Baker students in grades K-2 will temporarily attend Mehfoud Elementary School, 8320 Buffin Road in Varina. And students in grades 3-5 will temporarily attend Varina Elementary School, 2551 New Market Road.
> Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
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Weekend Top 10


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, check out Innsbrook’s 8th annual St. Paddy’s Palooza – there will be music and dancing, a hot air balloon, kid’s activities, festive green beverages and volunteers shaving their heads to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. For more Irish fun, visit Walkerton Tavern for stories of Irish immigrants during the 19th century, traditional Irish foods, songs and an Irish craft. Concert opportunities this weekend include Leland Grant tonight at the Henrico Theatre, Sandston Baptist Church, Sandston Moose Lodge, the Shady Grove Coffeehouse and the Richmond Philharmonic at The Steward School. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

 

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The Weinstein Jewish Community Center will present the sixth annual ReelAbilities Film Festival March 16 and 18-19. The festival is dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories and artistic expressions of people with different abilities. The schedule includes: March 16 at 7:30 p.m. – “Shameless: The Art of Disability;” March 18 at 7:30 p.m. – “Margarita with a Straw;” March 19 at 12 p.m. – “Mimi and Dona;” and March 19 at 2 p.m. – “Gabriel.” Talk Backs follow each film. Tickets per film are $8 for JCC members and $12 for nonmembers. For details, visit http://www.richmond.reelabilities.org. Full text

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