- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

WILLIAMSBURG (AP) The Navy is backing improved passenger rail service in Virginia as a way to save the government time and money.

The Hampton Roads-to-Washington corridor is the service's busiest domestic travel route, said Rear Adm. David Architzel, commander of the Navy's Mid-Atlantic Region in Norfolk.

About 36,000 Department of Defense employees make the trip each year, with three out of four employees driving solo in cars.

"Potentially, there are 27,000 opportunities to get cars off this corridor with rail," Adm. Architzel said.

The state transportation department has released a study about building a high-speed rail line along the U.S. 460 corridor that links Norfolk and Richmond.

Addressing the annual meeting of the Virginia High Speed Rail Development Committee on Wednesday, Adm. Architzel did not advocate a particular method of bringing passenger trains to Norfolk.

A train ride between Norfolk and Washington could cost passengers about a third of a plane trip, he said, citing air fares and rail-service studies.

More rail options also would help the Navy and other military services move troops and equipment, he told about 75 business and civic leaders.

Since last fall, 149 combat units have left Norfolk for operations in Afghanistan and other parts of Asia. "High-speed rail could get those soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to Norfolk much more comfortably than buses," he said.

Adm. Architzel also has advocated light-rail service to Norfolk Naval Station, where 83,000 active-duty military commuters fight traffic daily.

Increased security at the base after September 11 caused traffic delays that lasted as long as three hours, he said.

While safety and security are paramount, he said, "these delays became and remain a major concern."

The business-backed High Speed Rail Development Committee is part of a regional coalition lobbying Congress for funds to upgrade railroads.

The goal isn't 200-mph bullet trains like Japan has, but more and better train service, said state Sen. John Watkins, Chesterfield Republican.

"Sometimes it's not the highest speed that counts but the frequency," said Mr. Watkins, who leads the Virginia-North Carolina High Speed Rail Commission.


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