Biennial Report

January 2018 - February 2020


Activities and Events


  • March 16, 2018 Annual Board meeting and program. Speakers Sonali Soneji and Sharon Greene covered VRE’s governing mechanism and California’s Joint (rail) Powers Authorities, respectively. Michael Testerman gave a report on the December 17, 2017 meeting in Raleigh of the Virginia-North Carolina Interstate High Speed Rail Compact.


  • May 29, 2018 VRPI initiated a meeting, attended by several Directors and Fellows, with DRPT Staff concerning issues involving the relationship between public and private sector rail, including the very poor OTP of Virginia’s regional trains, NS refusal to negotiate for additional service expansions, and more.


  • July 19, 2018 Board meeting and program.  Dr. Francis “Frank” Mulvey, former Surface Transportation Board Commissioner, Vice-Chair and Acting Chair, spoke on the topics of “Balancing public and shareholder interests in the rail industry: Can we do Better?” and “A public-private proposal for modernizing and replacing Northeast Corridor Infrastructure.” During the meeting, VRPI welcomed Joel Nied of Norfolk as a new Fellow and elected William “Bill” Ingram of Norfolk as a new director, to replace Walter Witschey, who stepped down and became a Fellow.


  • October 15, 2018 Dick Beadles and Michael Testerman attended the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) Rail Workshop and reported on it to the Board and Fellows; VRPI submitted a list of policy issues for the workshop.


  • April 16, 2019 Joint Board meeting with VHSR for the “Lunch With” program, featuring DRPT Director, Jennifer Mitchell.


  • May 17, 2019  Many VRPI principals attended the all-day Rail Users Network (RUN) annual conference, held in Richmond at VHSR’s offices. Speakers included VRPI President, Meredith Richards, on Intercity Passenger Rail in VA; Amtrak’s Joe McHugh; and VRPI Treasurer, Danny Plaugher. 


  • August 1-2, 2019 VRPI coordinated with North Carolina DOT Rail Division and Virginia DRPT to host the North Carolina Rail Facilities Tour for colleagues and public officials. The tour covered the new Raleigh Multi-modal Station, with a train ride to also tour the recently restored Greensboro Multimodal Station. Some members then returned Richmond the next day on the Carolinian and included lessons learned in the report to our organization.


  • August 5, 2019 Culminating a multi-month exercise of drafts and edits, VRPI sent letters to Governor Northam, Secretary of Transportation Valentine, DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell, and the Commonwealth Transportation board, listing our questions and topics for further study as rail policies are developed. We urged the Northam Administration to become a champion for rail development. Our mailings included copies of Dick Beadles’ papers which identify current shortcomings in fully integrating rail into transportation policies.



  • November 19, 2019 VRPI leaders Dick Beadles, Meredith Richards and Danny Plaugher (representing VHSR) attended (by invitation) Governor Ralph Northam’s groundbreaking Passenger Rail Initiative press conference in Arlington, VA. Their presence was recognized by Transportation Secretary, Shannon Valentine, in her opening remarks. VRPI Director Ken Briers, representing the Rail Passengers Association, also attended.  


  • January 17, 2020 Under the leadership of VRPI Director and retired attorney, John Beall, VRPI's Executive Committee begins a detailed review of the rail sections of Governor Northam's Omnibus Transportation Bill (HB1414/SB890), examining the language for potential state constitutional and other legal issues, especially as they pertained to the establishment of the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority and its designated powers. Retired Norfolk Southern Attorney, Mark Perrault, and Southern Environmental Law Center Attorney, Trip Pollard, contribute significantly to the review.


  • January 31, 2020 VRPI held a roundtable discussion with DRPT leadership covering issues of rail performance and future policy topics. During the meeting, John Beall, a former member of the Virginia Attorney General's legal team, advised DRPT staff of VRPI's review of potential legal issues with HB1414/SB890, following up with a detaileld, written analysis and suggested revisions sent to DRPT officials on behalf of VRPI.    


  • February 11, 2020 The Virginia General Assembly adjourned after the Senate unanimously passed a bill requesting DRPT to study the feasibility of an east-west Commonwealth Corridor passenger rail service connecting Hampton Roads, Richmond, and the New River Valley. The House adjourned with the bill still in committee, to be taken up in 2021. The bill was initiated by Virginians for High Speed Rail following a proposal written by VRPI Executive Committee members, Danny Plaugher and Trip Pollard (see below).


   Publications and Presentations by VRPI Directors and Fellows


Dick Beadles, VRPI Founder; VRPI Fellow

  • Virginia's 21st Century Rail Development Program: A Winning Strategy or Not? Virginia Rail Policy Institute, March 10, 2018. Introduction by Mark Perreault. Read


  • The Eighteen-Wheeler Pandemic: Examples from Virginia, Virginia Rail Policy Institute, June 30, 2018. Read


  • Corporate Charters and Railroads: The “Public-Be-Dammed” Attitude of Virginia’s Two Class One “Freight” Railroads,Virginia Rail Policy Institute, August 20, 2018. Read


  • Science and Politics: Reflective and Prospective Observations on the RF&P Railroad. Presentation at the Science Museum of Virginia to commemorate 100th Anniversary of Opening of Richmond’s Broad Street Station, January 16, 2019.


  • (Primary Author) I-81 Corridor Study and Presumptive Legislative Action: 2019 Assembly. Virginia Rail Policy Institute, January 17, 2019. Read


  • Virginia Rail Access Program, and public funding of private railroads generally. Virginia Rail Policy Institute,  January 19, 2020. Read


Steve Ditmeyer, Principal, Transportation Technology and Economics; VRPI Fellow


  • PSR and PTC: Could They, Should They, Must They Coexist?, Railway Age, October 20, 2019. The article is based on Ditmeyer’s October 8, 2020 presentation at the Conference of the Washington Area Railway Engineering Society. Read the article


  • Precision Scheduled Railroading and Positive Train Control: How They Relate to One Another. VRPI Sponsored Presentation to DRPT Virginia Rail Workshop,  Richmond Main Street Station November 13, 2019. Read the Power Point


Danny Plaugher, Virginians for High Speed Rail Executive Director; VRPI Treasurer

  • Virginia is Leading on Passenger Rail. It needs Congress’ Help. Richmond Times Dispatch, January 8, 2019. Read


  • Amazon gives Virginia the opportunity to build a 21st century transportation network. The Virginia Mercury, January 8, 2019. Read


Danny Plaugher and Trip Pollard, Southern Environmental Law Center; Both, VRPI Executive Committee

  • Expanding Virginia’s Passenger Rail: Connecting the Blue Ridge to the Beach with the Commonwealth Corridor. September 2019. Read


  • Virginia’s Passenger Trains, Building on Success. Southern Environmental Law Center, January 2018. Read


Meredith Richards, VRPI President

  • Intercity Passenger Transportation: More Virginians are Riding the Rails. The Virginia Newsletter, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia. Vol. 94, No. 1, May 2018. Read


  • Fueling the Renaissance: Public Policy and Intercity Passenger Rail in Virginia. The Virginia Newsletter, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, University of Virginia. Vol. 94, No. 2, July 2018. Read


  • Federal Rail Policy: On-Time Performance and the failure of the “Preference Provision” for Amtrak trains, Virginia Rail Policy Institute, July 2, 2018. Read


  •  Fueling the renaissance: Public policy and intercity passenger rail in Virginia. Charlottesville Daily Progress, August 12, 2018. Read


  • Intercity Passenger Rail in Virginia: After Ten Years of Progress, It’s Time to Review, Re-Evaluate and Revise Virginia’s Rail Public Policy. Presentation to Rail Users’ Network (RUN) Annual Conference, Richmond, VA., May 17, 2019.


  • Back to the Future: Rail Transportation and the Environment. Presented to EVSC 4002, Undergraduate Seminar Series, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia, November 5, 2019.

Other News Items


  • VRPI Executive Director, Michael Testerman, and VRPI Directors, Ken Briers and Cliff Dunn, currently serve as leaders in the Rail Passengers Association. Testerman represents Virginia on the Council of State Representatives; Briers is a Vice Chairman; and Cliff Dunn is Treasurer of RPA.


  • In Memoriam. Former VRPI Fellow and UVA Professor Emeritus, John Knapp, died November 16, 2018.