Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Eastern U.S. rail initiatives gain ground

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Arlington, Va., voters Tuesday approved a $31.9 million transportation bond by a healthy four-to-one margin, making $14.6 million available for improvements to the WMATA Metrorail. Upgrades in WMATA's Virginia stations would include larger station platforms to accommodate 8-car trains, and funds to help purchase additional 7000-series cars.

(WMATA has 428 such cars on order from Kawasaki Rail Car, Inc.)

In southeastern Virginia. Virginia Beach voters reversed their distaste for light rail transit voiced in 1999, approving an advisory (non-binding) referendum to advance study extending The Tide LRT east from neighboring Norfolk. The vote allows planning to continue for the 10.6-mile extension. Healthy ridership on The Tide, which opened Aug. 19, 2011, was credited in part for the shift in Virginia Beach voters' attitudes toward LRT.

In Orange County, N.C., voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike for various transportation improvements, including funds to aid construction of a new Amtrak station in Hillsborough, N.C., to be served by the Carolinian and Piedmont.

Funding for construction of light rail transit linking Durham and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is also identified. Durham voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2011 to contribute to the LRT proposal. A potential third partner in the effort, Wake County, has yet to vote on any such effort.