Amtrak Paving Crazy Expensive

The soil under the Amtrak parking lot simply can’t support paving, making it a $300k proposition.  #

25 Responses to “Amtrak Paving Crazy Expensive”


  • So instead of paving the lot as promised- he goes out and commissions a geologic test to support the reasons why he cannot pave the lot. Right.

  • I have never heard of anyone ever doing a test like this on such a lot. So why haven’t the nearby bridge, the Amtrack station or the 2 SETS OF RAILROAD TRACKS on the west and south of the lot in question sunk into the ground- I’m calling bullshit (per Waldo’s rules).

  • No, it was required along with provisions for storm water management.

  • Actually, Just Bob, the information in the article indicates that Silverman sought bids for paving the lot and when the bids came in much higher than expected inquired about the higher costs. Silverman hired a geologist following the bids (which I gather included the necessary reinforcing).

    Of course, if someone is _that_ concerned about all of this they’re free to purchase the building and lot and pave it as they wish.

    I agree it’s something that would be better addressed for the community (I used to live in Walker Sq. I’d have loved for the lot to be paved) but it’s private property.

  • Chris, your point is that the answer to someone who has delayed and delayed paving this eyesore is that if I don’t like it, I can buy him out? Umm no thanks, that’s a lame response to what is gateway to a transportation depot. The city needs to stop coddling this developer and get something done. Silverman doesn’t want to pave he it because he just wants to sell it and not pay for the pavement.

  • @perlogik, You don’t know what you’re talking about. Chris makes a good point. Also the railroad can move it’s small passenger station house anywhere along the line and its customers will not have to deal with the potholes. The restaurant can move out, too. After all neither one was there ten years ago.

  • Cville Eye please take a moment and look at a Google map and see that this is where two tracks intersect. There is no more logical place to put this station then here. This is exactly why Silverman thinks the land is so valuable and has so dear a price on it. If you have a better place to put it let us all know

    Could you also address the previous point on why the tracks, the bridge and the building haven’t sunk into the ground of this allegedly poor soil ?

  • perlogik, I don’t understand the geology involved in the tracks, station or bridge as opposed to the lot. Since it doesn’t seem so complicated to find out (asking the companies who submitted bids to pave the lot, for example) I tend to think that there’s a legitimate issue with paving the lot. (That is, it can indeed be paved but will cost a pretty large amount of money and isn’t as simple as calling in Asphlund and letting them knock it out in a couple of days.)

    You may be correct that Silverman wishes to sell the whole property and avoid having to pay to pave it. Again, it’s private property. The city has said several times that there is no law or regulation that permits it to force a private owner to pave that lot. They’re not coddling him, they’re exercising all of their influence within the law.

    And yes, my point is that if you don’t like it you can buy him out. It may seem lame to you but it’s the correct response when dealing with private property. Perhaps the lesson here is that a municipality shouldn’t locate a transportation hub on private land without the regulatory authority to have it maintained as they wish.

  • Who says the passenger or freight trains going north and south need to use the same station as the freight trains going east and west. Remember C&O’s station was downtown across the street from the C&P Restaurant and the Norfolk Southern was on W. Main. A better place can be determined by the train company. I don’t know how much space it needs and how much money it wishes to spend, but, remember, it doesn’t have to be in the city. Oh, why not dump it in McIntire Park (just kidding)?
    Perhaps the improvements on the property were built in the 1800’s across the street from the Queen Charlotte Hotel before the current soil, which once showed visible signs of containing coal dust and chips, arrived? Perhpas that’s why soil from the Waslker Square site had to be removed before thos apartments were built? Soil surveys were also required for the east end of the Mall (filling station was there) and the City Yard (fuel tanks).

  • “Perhaps the lesson here is that a municipality shouldn’t locate a transportation hub on private land without the regulatory authority to have it maintained as they wish.” The city didn’t locate the train station there. The city encouraged a contract between a private entity and a private land owner. Those two parties agreed to move the station from the original large building to its current building which used to be for storage. The city discovered several years ago that its regulations against gravel driveways were inconsistent or ambiguous. The city attorneys declared the ordinance unenforceable. The ordinance seemingly has been put on the shelf because the city hasn’t figured out what it want to do about allowing people to put in pervious driveways to help with storm water runoff. It would be great if something pervious could be put in at the station because of the impending TMDL regulations and fees. It has been estimated that the annual costs to the city and to the county could be as much as $15M each.

  • No one says the lot can’t be paved, just that the paving would need expensive reinforcement. Why don’t the bridge, tracks, etc. sink into the ground? Because engineers who specialize in keeping that from happening have found workable, quite possibly very expensive solutions to the problem and those structures have been built accordingly. It happens all the time for structures of all sorts, including parking lots.

    These are all purely hypothetical numbers chosen for simplicity, but lets take a bridge pier as an example and see what it takes to keep it from sinking. Say the pier is 2′ x 5′ giving 10 sqft of area in plan. If it bears a load of 10,000 lbs, it exerts a force of 10,000/1440 or approx. 6.9 psi on the soil below it. If the soil’s bearing capacity were 5 psi, then the load would have to be spread over an area of 10,000/5 or 2000 sq. inches to support it.

    If 5 psi were the theoretical bearing capacity, then there would typically be a factor to adjust for an allowable capacity. That increases the area of the support to allow for extra safety. That factor might be 1.2 so the final foundation area might be 2400 sq. inches. If the necessary support area were impractical to build, then pilings driven into the ground below the foundation might do the same job using friction to resist the load.

    In the case of a parking lot, vehicle wheels are exerting pressure downwards. If there is nothing solid enough to resist that pressure below the asphalt, then it would deflect downward causing cracking etc. Keeping that from happening would mean adding some sort of stiffening reinforcement so, just as in the case of the pier, the load is distributed over a wide enough area to resist it.

    To experiment at home with this idea, take a down pillow and toss a quarter or two on it. That will leave a noticeable divot. The same load supported by an intermediary piece of thin cardboard would not do that. Cardboards is cheap. Several hundred sq. ft. of paving reinforcement, not so cheap.

  • Damn. That’s some science, right there.

  • Cville Eye , Amtrak uses both tracks. Most but not all are north and south tracks but Amtrak uses the east and west. I’ve disembarked from both sides. That is one of the reason this site was chosen

    The city can pass laws that would make this lot’s current condition a thing of the past. Private property rights are important, so is public accommodation and improving mass transit. Look at the ADA laws for example. There is a compelling public interest in having this transportation hub having a minimal standard of egress. If there was any other way to access this lot I would agree that private property rights were tantamount but this is not the case here. Add to all this, the news that the new extra DC trains now might be in jeopardy due to this parking lot and you have an even compelling governmental interest.

  • As the Mythbusters would say “Warning: Science Content.”

    Nicely done, the boss of me. And thanks!

  • I’ve never heard folks argue so passionately about the aesthetic merits of asphalt. Having lived very close to this lot for a couple of years, I can’t say that I really cared much about the material used to cover the parking lot. I understand blowing dust, but it sounds like he can mitigate that.

    What’s missing from the conversation is the notion of opportunity cost. Say that, in a fit of community-mindedness, the owner decides to shell out cash right now for the smoothest, most attractive asphalt available. The crowds cheer, but what just happened is that the potential for anything truly community-serving has been pushed that much further away. He (or a future owner) will probably not tear out the pavement to put in a pervious surface to help defray TMDL costs. A nice parking garage and supporting development will be less likely. This is an important site that could be used in many positive ways.

    For the time being, don’t see gravel. See potential.

  • Yes, the city CAN pass laws but it hasn’t.

  • The city can only pass laws that the state allows them to pass. That may well be why they don’t currently have such a law.

    http://definitions.uslegal.com/d/dillons-rule/

    In Cville is right about the aesthetics of asphalt. Anyone who has ever stood in the middle of thousands of square feet of black asphalt on a Virginian August day knows what the next round of whining would be about if that material were there instead of gravel.

  • I believe the Dillon rule applies these days mostly to not allowing localities to pass new taxes. Simple zoning or existing laws could be changed or enforced without much of a problem. They can fine you if you don’t cut down weeds in your parking lot but they can’t make you provide adequate egress to a transportation hub? This seems very unlikely.

    The question to be asked is why does Silverman seem to be able to delay over and over again and the city shrugs powerless. The city seems not to be a shrinking violet on few other matters, why this one ?

  • “I believe the Dillon rule applies these days mostly to not allowing localities to pass new taxes.”
    http://www.readthehook.com/blog/index.php/2008/08/page/4/

  • My link was to show you that the Dillon Rule does not only apply to taxes.

  • I was speaking about the context the Dillon rule is usually used in current news stories, I understand it covers many other things as well.

    In these dire budgetary times, when property owners are looking for relief, local officials often cite the Dillon rule as why they can’t create other sources of revenue.

  • Cville Eye: Good point about pervious pavement! I’d much rather see that go in than another stretch of low-albedo high-runoff asphalt.

  • perlogik, thanks for clarifying.

  • Much to do about what

    “I’ve never heard folks argue so passionately about the aesthetic merits of asphalt.”

    Must be something else going on. Oh, the parking lot is a historic landmark–site of Jefferson School 1866-1894. In 1869 a new proper, graded schoolhouse was built here. So maybe it’s this history causing people to place value on something of such little value–a parking lot. History has a way of influencing events even when you don’t know the history. It just makes more sense when you do.

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