No rail stop in Suffolk

Published 12:58 am Saturday, December 3, 2011

Suffolk officials’ dreams of having a passenger rail stop in Suffolk are dead — for now.

The service between Norfolk and Petersburg will begin in 2013 with stops in Norfolk, Petersburg and Richmond, with no provision for stations elsewhere.

“The initial service will start without a stop in Suffolk,” Kim Kovac, a communications specialist with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, wrote in an email. “We will continue to evaluate future potential station locations as the service gets further under way.”

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The service will take riders on a 79-mph trip between Norfolk and Petersburg and eventually to Richmond, Washington and points farther north. It will run along existing Norfolk Southern tracks, though significant upgrades are needed to parts of the track to make for a smoother ride.

Supporters of the project say it will help reduce congestion on Virginia’s interstates.

City leaders had hoped to put a stop just south of the core downtown, and also envisioned a bus plaza, nearby shopping and restaurants, and other amenities.

“We sure would like some intercity passenger rail,” Suffolk Public Works director Eric Nielsen told state legislators at a dinner meeting this week.

Chesapeake and Windsor also were jockeying to be chosen for a possible intermediate stop between Norfolk and Petersburg, but they apparently also have been left off the map.

Despite the initial damper in the city’s plans, Kovac left the door open to putting additional stops along the route in the future.

“While we have made an initial decision to stop in Norfolk, we are continuing discussions with localities regarding possible future stops and stations,” she said. “No decisions have been made at this time as to which, if any, additional stops will be made.”

City officials were unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.