Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
That long, low whistle is amazement at the big Lick Run price to pay to prepare for passenger rail.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Those who tend to forget that Roanoke once was called Big Lick were served up a $6.1 million reminder this week. That’s what engineers figure it will cost to construct a culvert strong enough to carry trains over Lick Run in downtown Roanoke.
Lick Run in downtown? Yep, it runs through a brick and arch culvert buried not far from the tracks that run behind Warehouse Row to the East End Shops. Right where the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation says is the best place for the city to host a passenger rail platform. And it might be the only place.
Initial plans called for bringing a passenger train along the other side of the tracks with a platform near the O. Winston Link Museum. Only there isn’t room enough for a passenger train to turn around there without expensive switches, tracks, three maneuvers over an hour’s time and, most important, interfering with Norfolk Southern freight trains. The latter is reason enough to scuttle hopes that the railroad would ever allow Amtrak access.
By bringing the track along the other side, the price drops for the state, allows for improved passenger-grade tracks and, because it causes less disruption to freight, brings Norfolk Southern on board, explained Roanoke City Manger Chris Morrill.
It does, though, raise the cost to the city far beyond its initial estimate, and city council might need to find the money sooner than anticipated if a transportation deal is worked out in Richmond. Though expensive, it’s a good problem to have — and solve.
Morrill said the city would seek matching grants. But even if those don’t work out, city council will need to finance the project. Passenger rail is nearly as important to Roanoke’s future as rail was to its past. Improved access to Washington, D.C., New York and Boston is cited often as a prime need by businesses, and it will better connect Roanoke with those wishing to explore Big Lick.
Weather JournalRain is here; no snow