Passenger-rail service to Asheville? An annotated list of articles & views

An annotated list of articles and views about bringing passenger rail service to Asheville.

The next train to Asheville, by Margaret Williams (November 2000) Mountain Xpress:
When the Norfolk Southern freight train rumbled past the old Biltmore Village depot on a recent cold November morning, Judy Calvert waved. It was a gesture of hope, framed in nostalgia. … But more was at stake than a trip down memory lane. Coman, Calvert and other members of the Asheville Site Selection Task Force are working to revive passenger rail service in WNC; they had gathered on Nov. 15 to visit each of the five primary sites being considered in the city. Other towns along a proposed Asheville-Salisbury line have already identified their sites … Asheville, however, has no clear-cut choice.

Planned service to Western North Carolina, by NC DOT Rail Division (2001 & 2002 reports) (Perhaps the most recent DOT plans; North Carolina’s push, aided recently by federal stimulus funds, is focused almost entirely in the Piedmont.

Western North Carolina train plans take back seat (November 2009) Asheville Citizen-Times:
A long-stalled plan to bring passenger trains to Asheville could inch forward in the next few months, but it lags other rail projects as a top state priority. Faster train rides through major population centers will stay at the top of state officials’ wish list. … only stimulus money [the Asheville route] qualifies to receive is $3 million for engineering and environmental study that it would have to split with a planned Raleigh-to-Wilmington expansion. Supporters of westward expansion remain optimistic. “I think it’s going to get done,” said Judy Ray, longtime chairwoman of the Western North Carolina Rail Corridor Committee. …The plan is for a 79 mph Amtrak route from Asheville to Salisbury, with fare-paying travelers and state taxpayers picking up the tab for running the trains. … The project was once estimated at about $130 million but now would cost closer to $200 million … That doesn’t include a projected $30 million to build and expand train stations along the route. … Old Fort, Marion and Morganton renovated their historic stations in 2004 and 2005, joining Statesville, but stations have yet to be built at stops like Valdese, Black Mountain and Asheville. And all the stations need new platforms. Officials have picked out the site for an end-of-the-line station in Biltmore Village. …Asheville is the most-requested destination that Amtrak doesn’t serve, said [Shirley Williams, environmental and planning director for the state Rail Division].

Train Reaction, Asheville needs passenger-rail service, opinion by Brett McCall (March 2010)
In February, I attended a meeting of the Western North Carolina Passenger Rail Corridor Committee, led by Asheville resident Judy Ray. It became clear that support and active participation by both Asheville and Buncombe County are essential. And on March 23, the Asheville City Council unanimously adopted a resolution reconfirming support for the WNC Rail Initiative. On April 7, corridor committee members will make a presentation to the General Assembly’s Standing Committee on Comprehensive Rail Service Plan about the importance for North Carolina of reopening the Asheville line.

The People for Rail to Asheville, Facebook page!/group.php?gid=317583086629

The Asheville Chamber of Commerce lobbies Raleigh for passenger rail service, (April 2010)
On April 7, 2010, eight members of the Western North Carolina Corridor Passenger Rail Committee ventured to Raleigh to make a presentation to the House Select Committee on a Comprehensive Rail Service Plan for North Carolina. … Judy Ray spoke about the conception of the group and the work the organization has done over the past decade. This included 140 resolutions of support for passenger rail by North Carolina towns, municipalities, and organizations. … Stephanie Monson and Brett McCall concluded the presentation by telling of Asheville’s renewed enthusiasm surrounding passenger rail. This included the Asheville City Council’s renewed resolution supporting passenger rail … The presentation was well received and Rep. Deborah Ross of Wake County followed with a question regarding the cost of bringing passenger rail to WNC. This was answered by Patrick Simmons of the Rail Division. He explained the corridor was estimated to cost $134 million or roughly $1 million per mile of track (much cheaper than highway).

About Jeff Fobes
As a long-time proponent of media for social change, my early activities included coordinating the creation of a small community FM radio station to serve a poor section of St. Louis, Mo. In the 1980s I served as the editor of the "futurist" newsletter of the U.S. Association for the Club of Rome, a professional/academic group with a global focus and a mandate to act locally. During that time, I was impressed by a journalism experiment in Mississippi, in which a newspaper reporter spent a year in a small town covering how global activities impacted local events (e.g., literacy programs in Asia drove up the price of pulpwood; soybean demand in China impacted local soybean prices). Taking a cue from the Mississippi journalism experiment, I offered to help the local Green Party in western North Carolina start its own newspaper, which published under the name Green Line. Eventually the local party turned Green Line over to me, giving Asheville-area readers an independent, locally focused news source that was driven by global concerns. Over the years the monthly grew, until it morphed into the weekly Mountain Xpress in 1994. I've been its publisher since the beginning. Mountain Xpress' mission is to promote grassroots democracy (of any political persuasion) by serving the area's most active, thoughtful readers. Consider Xpress as an experiment to see if such a media operation can promote a healthy, democratic and wise community. In addition to print, today's rapidly evolving Web technosphere offers a grand opportunity to see how an interactive global information network impacts a local community when the network includes a locally focused media outlet whose aim is promote thoughtful citizen activism. Follow me @fobes

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