Daily News Record:All Aboard! Railroad Project Aims To Reduce I-81 Traffic
February 28, 2012
By JEREMY HUNT
HARRISONBURG — Part of a project that aims to reduce truck traffic on Interstate 81 is well under way south of Elkton.
Norfolk Southern is adding nearly three miles of passing track to its existing line as part of the Crescent Corridor, a massive upgrade to the rail company’s facilities in the works for years.
Company officials expect the $2.5 billion corridor project to take nearly 1 million tractor-trailers off Virginia interstates annually.
The Crescent Corridor is being completed in stages as funding becomes available.
The project near Elkton, estimated at $12 million, will increase capacity on the line that follows U.S. 340 by providing a place for north- and southbound trains to pass. It should be complete late this year, according to a company representative.
“Right now, that route is not a competitive alternative to what we call our Piedmont Route, which goes up along U.S. 29,” said Robin Chapman, a Norfolk Southern spokesman. “It has more curves, it has fewer passing sidings, so we need to do some infrastructure improvement to it so we can use it as an alternative to our Piedmont.”
Between its rail yards in Front Royal and Waynesboro, Norfolk Southern’s existing passing tracks aren’t large enough to accommodate today’s intermodal trains, Chapman said.
The company plans to extend two 1.2-mile sidetracks in Page County and in Warren County, but no funding has been identified for those projects.
Virginia’s Rail Enhancement Fund provided 70 percent of the funding for the Elkton project, which will add 14,700 feet of track right along U.S. 340 near the MillerCoors Shenandoah Brewery.
In Virginia, the Crescent Corridor is expected to reduce tractor-trailer traffic on interstates by 848,000 annually, according to one estimate.
That includes 748,000 trucks on I-81 through the Valley.
Company officials say the investment of every $1 on the Crescent Corridor generates a $16 return in reduced fuel costs, maintenance and economic development.
While it would improve safety on I-81, which is overloaded in the region already, local officials say the construction project near Elkton has raised some concerns.
Rockingham County Administrator Joe Paxton said there has been an issue with project management at the site, with heavy equipment encroaching on U.S. 340. The project is close to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s right of way for the thoroughfare.
“The concern we’ve had there is from a safety standpoint,” Paxton said. “They could have operated the installation of the improvements a little bit better.”
Chapman said he hadn’t heard any concerns about the work and could not comment.
Don Komara, who heads up VDOT’s Harrisonburg office, said department officials have received complaints that the company hadn’t complied with its land-use permit.
“When we’ve checked on them, they’ve always been in compliance. But it appears maybe a couple of times they weren’t,” he said. “We’ve had some good meetings with them and they’ve assured us they will go back into work in compliance.”
Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or email@example.com
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