Suffolk has sacrificed enough

Published 8:22 pm Monday, December 5, 2011

It was always pretty unlikely that Suffolk would convince state officials to plan for a station within the city along the route of the new high-speed railroad service that is planned between Norfolk and Petersburg.

The whole point of high-speed rail is evident within the name — “high speed.” With riders counting on the quick turnaround of a 79-mph journey between the two terminal points, anything that tends to slow down the trip will be detrimental to the service. Ridership levels will fall if the rail option for traveling to Richmond doesn’t save travelers significant time.

Stopping here in Suffolk, so relatively close to the Norfolk terminal might have made great sense to the folks in Suffolk who dreamt of hosting scores of train passengers each day as they embarked and disembarked from the Western Tidewater Railway Station. But the logistics and the marketability problems with the idea made it a non-starter for state railroad planners.

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If the commonwealth continues with its plans for building a new, limited-access Route 460 beginning in Suffolk and ending in Petersburg, Suffolk will see plenty of truck traffic headed to and from that toll road. There’s a pretty good chance that not many of those vehicles will stop in Suffolk, either, as most will be either just departing from the area or almost arriving at their destinations.

Taken together, the projects will make Suffolk one of the most heavily traveled cities in Virginia, yet there will be little to show for all that traffic in the way of tax receipts or business stimulus.

It might have been too much to expect that railroad planners would consider Suffolk’s needs when designing the new high-speed rail service or, for that matter, that the Virginia Department of Transportation would think about the effect of placing one end of a toll road within the city.

It’s not too much, however, to expect that Suffolk’s representatives in the General Assembly should stand up and declare that enough is, finally, enough. With the completion of these two projects Suffolk will have made sufficient sacrifices for the state’s economic and transportation needs.