Thursday, September 10, 2009

NS: Shared freight/passenger route costs Virginia less

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Norfolk Southern Corp., reflecting the growing interest by Class I railroads to cooperate with passenger rail interests to the benefit of both parties, says it would cost just $75 million to upgrade right-of-way between Virginia cities Petersburg and Norfolk.

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Addressing the Urban Land Institute Wednesday, Deborah H. Butler, NS’ executive vice president of planning and chief information officer, said the $75 million for improving the route is about half that of an earlier NS estimate. Both estimates are far less than the $262 million projected by Virginia itself.

Chip Badger, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation director, said the state numbers include passenger stations and other costs not counted in Norfolk Southern's estimate. Pricing details will not be released for possibly several weeks, he said. The commonwealth’s estimate does include increasing top speeds along the route from 79 mph to between 90 and 110 mph.

The Petersburg-to-Norfolk route is a stub to the much larger Southeast Corridor high speed rail proposal, which would link both Jacksonville, Fla., and Atlanta to Washington, D.C. (and the Northeast Corridor). That project is competing with nine other proposals, plus the NEC, for $8 billion in stimulus funds targeted for HSR by the Obama Administration.