Station construction and Norfolk Southern track improvements designed to allow Amtrak to resume passenger rail service to Norfolk, Virginia (VA), by October 2013 are under way. In fact, if all things continue going as well as they are now, passengers will be able to board a train just outside Harbor Park in Downtown much earlier than the established deadline.
Money is, as always, a concern. As the Virginian-Pilot reported the total startup cost is around $119 million split between the state, the city and the federal government. Virginia will bear the lion's share of the funding burden, but it's unclear whether it can do so.
Another lingering question is whether riders actually will line up for passenger trains leaving from and returning to Norfolk. The new station will truly be the end of the line. There's nowhere else an arriving Norfolk Amtrak customer to go. And that makes the local public's support for and use of Amtrak service vitally important.
Early ridership numbers from The Tide light rail following its August 2011 launch at least show that Norfolk residents have no inherent bias against boarding trains. Equal or greater embrace of the commuter train's much bigger brother is needed to keep Amtrak serving Norfolk.
On a final note, as a Virginia personal injury attorney who has represented people injured in passenger and freight railroad accidents, I feel compelled to note that more trains mean increased risks for injuries and deaths. As greater numbers of both Amtrak and Norfolk Southern trains make the daily trip between Richmond and Norfolk — going through Wakefield, Windsor, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Portsmouth — drivers, pedestrians and engineers will all need to be increasingly alert at grade crossings and all along tracks.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.