If we start with the assumption that the statewide public meetings of the governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways are intended to build public support for tax and fee increases to fund state roads, the fact that parties that stand to benefit from increased highways funding (the Contractors' Association of West Virginia, in particular) are packing the meetings should not affect that outcome.
It's ironic that while the first three meetings of the Blue Ribbon Commission have drawn attendance in the 60-to-100 range (with many responding to the CAWV's call to action), barely a dozen folks turned out for a public hearing in Charleston on the new State Rail Plan.
One would think there should be a symbiotic relationship between the two. The more the state can encourage use of rail for transportation of goods and materials (through development of more intermodal facilities, for one), the fewer tractor-trailers on the road, and the less wear-and-tear on state roadways.
To a much smaller scale, the more passengers on intercity and commuter rail, the fewer cars on state roadways. (The draft plan does call for increased funding to provide daily Cardinal service.)
Finally, speaking of, I've been surprised and pleased with the amount of feedback I've gotten on my travelogue piece a couple of weeks back on my train trip to the West Coast and back.
Numerous folks have commented on the article, either to ask about particulars of rail travel, to reminiscence about their own train adventures, or discuss the pleasures of rail travel in particular.
New House Finance Chairman Boggs sent along this email: "Great article regarding your rail trip. I'm certain if more people tried it, they would abandon other transportation modes whenever possible."
(He should know, since he has the best day job in the world.)
Particularly gratifying was a call from a retired gentleman who said he and his wife had decided to take the same trip, but said he didn't have Internet, and was not comfortable booking the trip over the phone. I told him he could stop by the Charleston station Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays, and Stationmaster Matt could help him out (just avoid showing up an hour before arrivals).
In fact, Friends of the Cardinal chairman Chuck Riecks said the station got a number of inquiries about day-trips on the Cardinal after the article.
Naturally, since the article came out, trains 50/51 have had a string of bad luck when it comes to running on time ...
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.