When the federal government refused to issue a permit for the proposed Route 29 bypass, opponents in Charlottesville were relieved, but Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation says the idea is not dead.
Aubrey Layne is a businessman, but he served five years on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and in that time he was convinced something had to be done about traffic congestion in Charlottesville.
“When I was a CTB member, I did vote for the bypass.”
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It’s been nearly two months since a train derailed in Lynchburg, sending a fireball into the sky above that city’s downtown and spilling oil into the James River.
Experts said the accident could have been far worse, and many communities along the state’s 3200 miles of railroad face similar dangers.
The city of Lynchburg grew and prospered for decades because freight moved easily here – first by river and then by rail. Trains were a routine part of city life, but on April 30 that routine was shattered.
Each year officials investigate an average of ten derailments in Virginia alone. Most involve coal or grain – cargoes unlikely to cause trouble for nearby communities, but a growing number of trains now carry oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota.
Because it contains high levels of gas, it’s more volatile than some other forms of crude, and transporting it by rail could be putting whole communities at risk.