The Chamber’s Regional Board meeting on June 23 featured guest speaker Thelma Drake, Director, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Drake, familiar to many in the crowd because of her service as a former state and federal legislator from Norfolk and Virginia Beach, gave the group of 40 board members and Chamber staff an update on rail development for Hampton Roads. She said, “This is an exciting time for us in rail to bring it here to Norfolk for the first time since the 70s.” Bringing rail to Hampton Roads makes sense because of its high population and large number of military and federal workers who travel to the Washington, D.C. area.
The project will realistically be complete in approximately three years. The trains will run along the 460 corridor on Norfolk Southern’s lines already in place. The route will take you from Harbor Park in Norfolk to the Staples Mill station near Richmond, and then continue to Washington, D.C. and onto Boston. For now, the trains are planned to run at speeds of 79 mph. Ideally Drake said, “You will be able to leave in the morning for a meeting in D.C. and be there by 9:30 or 10am and then be back home in the afternoon.” The Commonwealth Transportation Board recently approved $93 million to upgrade tracks between Harbor Park and Staples Mill for the Amtrak service.
Drake was impressed at the high turnout in January at the Half Moone Cruise Terminal when a public meeting was held regarding rail development. Drake said that although another high-speed rail hearing is not planned in Hampton Roads, her department has offered an informational meeting to take place in the region. For more information, visit www.ctb.virginia.gov/