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Funded by the state, the study will update data about the site's effect on local communities.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Announced in 2006, challenged with a lawsuit in 2008, approved by a court in 2011 and in limbo or on hold ever since — this is the meandering history of a proposed intermodal freight train terminal near Elliston.
In a sign of the project’s continued backing from Roanoke Valley business and municipal leaders and from state government, a Roanoke planning agency will spend $200,000 for a consultant to re-study the project. The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission announced the study Friday.
It is billed as an updated look at the facility’s possible transportation and economic impacts and should be completed this coming spring with money from the state Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment, officials said.
The office, which operates under the Virginia Secretary of Transportation, seeks a coordinated system of roads, rail, ports, transit, aviation, bike and pedestrian links for people and businesses.
In a plan to link highways and railways, Norfolk Southern Corp. more than five years ago proposed a $36 million freight rail terminal in eastern Montgomery County. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has agreed to pay 70 percent of the cost on the expectation that the operation of the facility, which would be able to transfer boxed freight between trains and trucks, would reduce truck traffic on state roads.
The railroad has bought some of the land needed at the site, which is adjacent to rail lines and near Interstate 81, but so far hasn’t constructed anything while waiting to confirm that there is a need for the freight-transfer service. That holding pattern has persisted since late 2011.
“Our position remains that we will build the facility if and when business conditions warrant,” railroad spokesman Robin Chapman said Friday.
Kevin Page, chief operating officer of DRPT, said he understands the railroad’s caution. Once the facility is built, the railroad must eventually take at least 150,000 freight containers off the highway a year or else repay state funds. The Roanoke region has a role in “identifying quantifiable traffic for the facility,” Page said.
Wayne Strickland, who directs the commission, said local government and business leaders want to understand the potential for the facility to become a new economic driver in their back yards and asked for the study. They want their “own package of information” built by the consultant from publicly available information and content gleaned from the railroad, he said.
The study, he hopes, will “ratchet up the conversation on the intermodal facility” and that, coupled with dialogue, will identify the user base the railroad is looking for.
Weather JournalMidday update: More ice likely later