“Isn’t this the darndest thing? I broke my foot for this occasion,” Meredith Richards told a large crowd at the Amtrak station off Main Street last Wednesday, gesturing to a cast. A broken foot, however, is not keeping her from enjoying one of the greatest moments in her life.
Meredith Richards, who was singled out by state officials for her dedication to bringing a passenger service through Charlottesville, greets the first train coming from Culpeper. “I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she tells C-VILLE. “I don’t think I’ve been this excited since my son was born almost 40 years ago.”
“I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she tells C-VILLE. “I don’t think I’ve been this excited since my son was born almost 40 years ago.”
Richards, founder of Cville Rail and longtime passenger rail activist, along with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern officials, Gov. Tim Kaine, Delegate David Toscano, Rob Bell, members of the Charlottesville City Council and Albemarle County Board of Supervisors welcomed the newly expanded, daily Amtrak passenger train that will pass through Charlottesville and head to Washington D.C., New York and Boston.
A few minutes late, the train approached the Charlottesville station around 2:25pm accompanied by the Charlottesville High School marching band and a banner made for the occasion by students at a local middle school.
The new Northeast Regional service is a result of the partnership between Norfolk Southern, Amtrak, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) and CSX. Thus, Virginia is the 15th state with which Amtrak struck such a partnership.
“This is about the environment,” said Kaine. “Moving people and moving freight by rail is a very smart thing to do concerning the environment.”
According to DRPT, the new route represents a first phase of service. In December, Amtrak Virginia will announce a new service from Richmond. With these new routes in place, 1.4 million cars will be off the road and 8.3 million gallons of fuel will be saved, it is estimated, as well as 66,000 tons of carbon emission a year.
Yet all good things come with a price.
The state has allocated, and invested, $17.2 million over a three-year-period.
After that, a dedicated source of funding must be found. Toscano, who with other legislators has pushed for the service, said that while Charlottesville was chosen as a stop on the new service line, “our challenge now is to show enough ridership, so we can keep this train in place,” he said. “We are going to show them what ridership is all about.”
According to Amtrak’s Fact Sheet for Fiscal Year 2008, 53,038 passengers boarded trains in Charlottesville, with one of the highest riderships in the state. Total statewide ridership for 2008 was 1,050,017.
Charlottesville to Washington D.C.
In fact, UVA COO Leonard Sandridge expects the train to be used by students and faculty who have business in Washington D.C. and New York. “For our students, it will be a means for them to commute over holidays, and for weekends, in fact,” he said. “Colonel Crozet would be very proud of what we have accomplished today, given the fact that he was responsible for one of the first means of rail transportation in this area.”
The new train stops in Charlottesville every morning, Monday through Friday, at 8:49am and reaches D.C. at 11:20am, New York’s Penn Station at 3:22pm and Boston at 8:05pm. The schedule runs about two hours later on weekends. On the way back, the train arrives locally at 7:16pm.
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