Over 150 people came out to the Broadway Co-Working Monday night , February 27, to hear the latest information about the proposed Shenandoah Rail Trail connecting Broadway and Front Royal.
Mayor Tim Proctor welcomed the group. He says nothing has “equaled the buzz” about this project. He went on to add that he feels the idea has a 95% plus approval rating from the citizens of the town of Broadway.
Maya Alexander, Community Engagement Manager for the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley – a member of the Shenandoah Rail Trail partnership – gave an overview of the proposed project. The Rail will cover fifty miles, three counties, and nine towns. She added that the corridor has long been a connection between the towns. For many years trains transported freight as well as passengers from community to community. Over the years, however, train transportation shifted to the eastern part of the state, eventually disappearing from this area. In 2020, train travel completely stopped between the towns of Broadway and Front Royal.
Rails to Trails is not a new concept. Alexander says that there are more than 24,000 miles of rail trails in the country – many of them in Virginia.
Alexander says that the easy grades and gentle curves of The Shenandoah Rail Trail will allow for smooth movement of wheelchairs and strollers, as well as a great surface for walking, biking, running, etc.
Alexander says that the Trail would be transformative for the communities involved. It would create a boost for local businesses, attract companies, and offer new job opportunities.
Discussions with Norfolk Southern are underway, and the state has begun to design the trail. There will be some federal funding for engineering, and a new non-profit group – Friends of the Shenandoah Rail Trail – will be created to help raise funds for the project.
Town Manager, Kyle O’Brien said he was very excited about the Rail Trail plan, joking that it was “rare to have folks in multi-jurisdictions agree on a project.” He also addressed an idea that some folks had about re-creating the train service between Broadway and Front Royal. He said that service would be virtually impossible to build and would cost $50 – $90 million dollars. O’Brien said that the proposed trail would not only be a draw for the towns along the trail, but for the entire Shenandoah Valley.
John-Allen Ennis, VDOT Location and Design Engineer, said that a feasibility study for the project was completed a year ago. The group evaluated the scope, cost, and schedule and decided that the project was viable. He says the Commonwealth Transportation Board allocated funds for VDOT to gather more information as to what the towns involved see as important.
After the formal part of the meeting, volunteers with the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley invited attendees to circulate among the various displays and posters outlining the proposed trail. Stations were set up for community Stations were set up for community members to write, draw, or map out their ideas for the Trail.
Other town meetings will be held in the future. The schedule is as follows:
New Market – March 2 – 6:30 pm
Mt. Jackson – March 9 – 6:30 pm
Timberville – March 11 – 9:00 am
Edinburg – March 13 – 6:30 pm
Strasburg – March 16 – 6:30 pm
Front Royal – March 23 – 7:00 om
Virtual (Zoom) – April 4 – 7:00 pm
Woodstock – April 6 – 6:00 pm
Toms Brook — TBD