Looking for a station

Published 8:27 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Now that an agreement on passenger rail has been signed between the commonwealth of Virginia and the Norfolk Southern railroad, communities all along Route 460 between Chesapeake and Richmond are clamoring for a piece of what they hope will be a lucrative venture.

The passenger rail line will have terminal stations in Norfolk and Richmond, with riders then having the opportunity to ride the rails from Richmond to points all along the East Coast. But the communities in between are lobbying for what’s come to be known as the “western station.”

That station could, indeed, be a boon to whatever community hosts it. The thinking is that folks from the western parts of Hampton Roads who wish to head to Richmond or beyond would be more likely to ride the train there if they didn’t have to drive all the way to Norfolk — through one of the perennially congested tunnels — to do so.

Email newsletter signup

There is some talk of such a station being built in the Bower’s Hill area of Chesapeake, in downtown Suffolk and even in Windsor.

Downtown Suffolk is, by far, the best choice for such a station. With nearby parking on Saratoga Street, nearby shopping along Washington and Main streets and the natural bottleneck created by the tracks’ in-town crossing, the downtown location has some obvious benefits that the other locations do not.

Plus, Suffolk is in a place that makes geographic sense for such a station. Few people from Portsmouth or Chesapeake are likely to make a trip all the way to Windsor to catch the train, and downtown Suffolk is a more palatable destination to folks in Windsor and much of Isle of Wight, Franklin and Southampton than is Bower’s Hill.

Even so, there is likely to be stiff competition from the other two communities for the station. To overcome that competition, Suffolk officials must be quick to highlight the city’s qualities and eager to share the city’s vision for a future in which it is well integrated into the Hampton Roads community.