And they [the Caroline BOS] have a Plan — oh wait, no they don’t.

(Pardon the vague reference to Battlestar Galactica.)

To recap:

  1. Caroline County has requested and received $490,000 from the federal government in the form of a FY08 earmark for a “commuter rail station” (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008; p. 2465).*
  2. Caroline County has received $100,000 from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation in the form of a grant “to study building a passenger rail station in the Carmel Church area”. (The Free Lance–Star).
  3. Caroline County has requested an additional $800,000 from Congressman Rob Wittman via a FY09 federal earmark (Appropriations Requests FY 2009).

When Gary Wilson was questioned if the county was negiotating with any organization to provide service to a “commuter rail station”, he provided the following response:

The County has been in contact with Amtrak regarding city to city service from a Caroline station to Washington, DC.  Others who own or use the line have also been contacted to obtain a preliminary understanding of the needs those entities will have should there be additional traffic on the existing lines.

I sent a follow-up email with the following questions (slightly edited to be more concise):

  1. “In contact”? Is that the same as a guarantee that the station will have service from Amtrak when/if it is built?
  2. What routes by Amtrak will be offered at the station?
  3. In addition, why is the county considering building a station with service from Amtrak when Amtrak ridership in Fredericksburg went down 6.82% last year (Ridership statistics fiscal year (FY)06, FY07)?

Gary Wilson’s response (I kid you not):

Staff is still in the early stages of studying this project.

We are not yet at a point to address the questions you have raised.

Oh, the staff isn’t at a point where they can answer a couple simple questions but they are at the point where they can request $1,400,000 in funding for a project when they don’t even know if service will be provided.

Other problems with the Board’s (and Gary Wilson’s) master-plan:

A) Ridership on Amtrak trains dropped 6.82% between Amtrak’s FY06 and FY07. This was not part of a general decrease in Amtrak ridership since ridership as a whole across Virginia went up 3.35% (Ibid).

B) Amtrak is not a commuter rail service: There are only two trains that are ran by Amtrak in the morning that can be used to commute to Washington, D.C. (Schedule).

One leaves the Fredericksburg station at 6:55 a.m. and arrives at Union Station (Washington, D.C.) at 8:15 a.m. This train does not stop at Leeland Road, Brooke, Rippon, Lorton, Franconia-Springfield (start of the Metro’s blue line), and Crystal City (Ibid).

The only other morning train leaves Frederickburg at 8:55 a.m. and arrives at Union Station at 10:06 a.m., making it useless for anyone working a 9-to-5 job. In addition, the 10:06 a.m. train does not stop at Leeland Road, Brooke, Rippon, Woodbridge, Lorton, Franconia-Springfield (start of the Metro’s blue line), Crystal City, and L’Enfant (the only station to be served by four Metro lines [Green, Yellow, Blue, and Orange]) (Ibid).

C) The cost of an one-way ticket between Fredericksburg and Union State in Washington, D.C. is $21. For both ways it will be $42. $42 a day to use Amtrak to commute to D.C.

D) During the last Board of Supervisors meeting the Board was complaining that the county doesn’t have any money to pay for road improvements; how about this: Instead of asking for $1,400,000 for a “commuter rail station”, why not ask for that much for road improvements in the county like Stafford and Prince William Counties did (Appropriations Requests FY 2009)? How about asking for money to improve radio communications between emergency services like Stafford County did (Ibid)?

Up next: Why is the county moving county services out of (essentially) the county seat to the Hanover County border?

*I had previously stated the amount received was $500,000, however I did not note that all earmark requests were reduced by 2%, therefore making the amount received $490,000 (Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008; p. 2464).

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