APTA Streetcar and
Seashore Trolley Museum Logo
Heritage Trolley Site
Hosted by the Seashore Trolley Museum
Roanoke - January 2006

[Back to Roanoke]

Friday, January 13, 2006
The Roanoke Times

Streetcars might roll on Roanoke yet again

By Tom Angleberger

Q: I was glad to read in a last year's article that some people are considering the possibility of bringing back the trolleys that once ran around and it would also include bringing back the incline railroad that once ran up and down Mill Mountain.

Are the possibilities real? That would be a joy!

Toronto is a charming city, in part because of the many streetcars running there. I believe we would have the same effect here if the idea goes forward.

-- Dan Provetti, Roanoke

A: Reviving Roanoke's streetcars seems to be very possible, based on the city's initial feasibility study, according to Roanoke Vice Mayor Bev Fitzpatrick.

"We have completed the first phase of the trolley study that would connect downtown with the Carilion Biomedical area," Fitzpatrick wrote in an e-mail. "It suggests that the cost for the city would be around $8 million, with the rest [another $10 million] from federal transportation funds."

The streetcar line would run down Jefferson Street, starting at the Railwalk and making "periodic stops" as it headed for Reserve Avenue. The trolleys themselves would look like those used until 1948 by the Roanoke Railway and Electric Co., but would be air-conditioned and handicapped accessible.

"A more in-depth study needs to be done and we are working to find state funding to pay for that information," Fitzpatrick wrote.

So, if it's really just a question of money, the big question isn't "can we," but "should we?"

"The city of Roanoke can't afford not to reinvest in the streetcars," said Len Brandrup, director of transportation for Kenosha, Wis., a Roanoke-sized city near Chicago, which recently restarted its streetcars as part of a massive redevelopment effort.

With the streetcars up and running, Brandrup is very, very positive about their impact on Kenosha and said the city is considering expanding the line.

The streetcars weren't big toys built for a wealthy community. Kenosha had been through hard times, with the closure of the AMC auto plant. To some it must have seemed total folly to spend $5 million on streetcars, but Brandrup says the streetcars were a great development tool.

They also mesh perfectly with another of Kenosha's big attractions, a new museum. (Sound familiar?) Additionally, Brandrup says streetcars are more than just tourist draws. As public mass transportation, they help fight urban sprawl and reduce dependence on foreign oil. (Because they use electricity, they are essentially coal-powered.)

As for the incline railroad, which ceased operation in 1929, that idea could be harder to make happen. Because it's more of an attraction than a public transportation project, the federal government's enormous transportation budget probably wouldn't help. The funds would probably have to be generated locally, Fitzpatrick explained, and currently the city's not even sure how much money it would take.

But Fitzpatrick has a vision of the streetcars taking folks all the way from downtown to Crystal Spring, where they could hop on the incline railway and visit Mill Mountain.

Q: This question came up yesterday as we drove toward Roanoke on U.S. 220. We saw another tractor-trailer accident; it had rolled over into the median and the crew was transferring the cargo. Many Virginia Department of Transportation personnel were on hand. The time was around noon. Upon our return (three and a half hours later), the truck still had not been righted and there were more VDOT trucks. Who pays for the cleanup of these accidents?

-- Merle H. White, Stanleytown

A: In most cases, the trucking company -- or likely the trucking company's insurance company -- pays.

Most of the work will probably be done by a towing service or, if there has been a fuel spill, an environmental cleanup company, explained VDOT spokesman Jason Bond.

VDOT crews are often there for traffic control, he said, but may play a role in the cleanup in order to get traffic lanes reopened. (VDOT equipment might be used to push something out of the way, he said, but not to haul anything off.) Obviously, there's a cost to having VDOT personnel working traffic control. And after the accident there might be guardrail or fences to replace. These costs are billed to the insurance company, Bond said.

Got a question? Got an answer? Call Tom Angleberger at 777-6476 or send an e-mail to tomangleberger@yahoo.com. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown. Look for Tom Angleberger's column on Fridays.


[Back to Roanoke]