High-speed rail zipping between Richmond and Hampton Roads? Connecting us more readily with Washington, D.C.? Sign us up. The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly endorses the extension of high-speed rail service to our region.
We join many partners speaking up in favor of this common-sense position, most notably the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), which unanimously adopted the recommended course of action we support.
Better links of our region to the nation’s capital and the Commonwealth’s capital would be a transforming transportation improvement. It would increase our ability to promote economic development and sustain and grow tourism, support our strong military community’s obvious links to D.C., and someday might link up with local light rail and other local public transit options.
The matter at hand is to extend service from D.C. to Richmond to Petersburg and then on to Hampton Roads, designating both the Norfolk Southern/Route 460 high-speed rail corridor, as well as improving intercity passenger service along the CSX/I-64 corridor.
We at the Chamber already have asked our membership to make their voices heard by commenting during the environmental regulatory review process either via written comment or by attending public hearings coming up later this month.
We hope the general public will join with us.
Connecting Hampton Roads to high-speed rail service would realize a great return on the investment for our region’s residents. HRTPO’s position is that connections can be realized at competitive prices and open service to our region, Virginia’s largest population base outside the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.
Our region is a home to a large concentration of defense and federal activities. In fact, it’s the largest concentration of federal activities outside of D.C. Ready access between D.C. and Hampton Roads makes clear sense.
High-speed rail also will enhance the competitive capabilities of our port facilities and other industry, as well as sustain and grow tourism. Improved rail travel will offer an alternative to guests to our region, improving congestion on our roads. Links between high- speed rail and local rail and other transit systems will connect our communities and make them more livable, potentially further reducing the number of cars on the road.
And there is a public safety component to the potential of this transportation capability. We could move citizens quickly without further clogging evacuation routes in the case of an emergency.
There are different ways to be heard on this important matter.
Two public hearings are scheduled in this area – Norfolk and Newport News – for a draft environmental impact statement on the project. Citizens can sign up to comment during the hearings. You have three minutes, or you also may provide comments privately to a court reporter there.
In Newport News, a hearing will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27, City Center Conference Facilities, James and Warwick rooms, 700 Town Center Dr.
In Norfolk, a hearing is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, Half Moone Cruise and Celebration Center, One Waterside Dr.
But, you can also send an e-mail to projectteam@Rich2HRRail.info or send mail to Public Information Office, DRPT, 600 E. Main St., Suite 2102, Richmond, VA 23219. Comments are due February 11.
We hope you will join us in supporting this important step forward for our region and the Commonwealth.
Jack Hornbeck, CCE
President & CEO
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce