Friday, January 13, 2006
The Roanoke Times
Streetcars might roll on Roanoke yet
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
-- 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
"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
"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
-- 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.
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