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Chesterfield seeks grant to improve train station
By James Peacemaker, Jr., Managing Editor
May 28, 2013, 17:30

CHESTERFIELD — The Ettrick train station could get a major makeover and become a regional transportation hub if Chesterfield gets $10 million in federal grant money.

The Board of Supervisors approved applying for the grant Wednesday, and it would require $2.5 million in matching funds from the county.

The Ettrick train station is one of two sites being studies for a multi-modal station and possibly a station for high-speed rail. Chesterfield is looking to boost its prospects by making improvements.

The resolution passed Wednesday says “The county can take an active role in the station’s evolution into a multimodal station by completing projects that improve vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian access to the station and by expanding the existing train station to accommodate the projected increase in ridership.”

The federal government is making $474 million in funds available through its Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Discretionary Grants and has set June 3 as the deadline for applications. The TIGER grants require a minimum 20 percent match. Projects that can be completed quickly, require less federal funds, and have the greatest impact will get priority.

The 20 percent match can be from public or private sources, and the county is considering possibilities such as state revenue sharing for road improvements and private donations in the form of land.

An August 2012 study done for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public

Transportation called “Pre-NEPA Evaluation: Tri-Cities Area

Multimodal Station Study,” identified Ettrick, along with the North Collier site in Petersburg, as a possible multimodal station location.

The study labeled Ettrick as a “small station” according to Amtrak guidelines, but was expected to see increased ridership and would need a “medium station.”

A small station generally has no staff but is served by a caretaker.

A medium station would have one employee, waiting rooms, vending machines and restrooms.

The Ettrick site is 9.5 acres while the Petersburg site is 140 acres with minimal development. The study said the Ettrick station could continue to serve in the near term with a few improvements to highway access and on-site circulation. It said that while there is enough land for a long-term plan, it will be constrained.

The larger Collier site in Petersburg would have more room for other types of transportation and room for a park and ride lot in the future. The site is also next to land in Dinwiddie that is being considered for major industrial and commercial development.

The study also said there are more hurdles with the Ettrick site. Being largely a minority neighborhood, it could raise Environmental Justice concerns due to noise disruption. Being a historic district could also raise concerns. There is also the possibility that an endangered species of plant, Michaux’s sumac, exists on the property.

On the plus side, infrastructure already exists on the Ettrick site and it would be less expensive to expand than it would be to start from scratch. It is also close to Virginia State University, which plans to grow from 6,000 students to 10,000 students by 2020.

The Collier site has fewer hurdles, but is located near two Civil War battlefields and development will need to be coordinated with the Petersburg National Battlefield.

Interstate access would be much better at the Collier site while walking and bike access would be better at the Ettrick site, at least until development grew around the Collier site.

Further cost-benefit analysis would be needed to see which site is better.

The Federal Rail Administration is also considering the two sites for high-speed rail.

Originally sites in Hopewell and Colonial Heights were considered as well, but they were eliminated as possibilities early on.

Passenger traffic has steadily grown at the Ettrick station over the past 10 years, with 16,618 passengers in 2002 and 21,997 in 2011. Amtrak’s new Northeast Regional service also began in December 2012, boosting ridership.

Total ridership could increase to nearly 100,000 with the addition of lines from Richmond to Norfolk and the addition of high-speed rail from Charlotte, N.C., to the Northeast.

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