Trolley addition proposed

FRONT ROYAL – An addition to the town’s trolley line could do much to ease the dearth of transportation options for work release prisoners at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, Warren County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley said Thursday.

The proposed route along U.S. 340/522 has a long way to go before it comes to fruition, Stanley told other members of the jail’s Finance and Personnel Committee.

But once in operation, it would greatly improve the ability of inmates with jobs to reach their workplaces and return to jail, Stanley said.

Inmates’ current options for getting to work are limited to trudging along the highway or in the median strip, arranging a ride with someone approved by the jail administration or taking a cab ride at a cost of up to $10 per round trip.

Jail superintendent William Wilson said those who have to walk face hazards along the busy highway.

“It would be a lot safer if they had a ride to work,” Wilson said.

Inmates traveling to and from the jail are only one segment of the population that is likely to take advantage of expanded trolley service, Stanley said. A recent survey conducted by the jail and several businesses and agencies found that 105 of 160 respondents would use the service to travel to Wal-Mart, Target, Valley Urgent Care and other businesses and industries. The survey reported that 72 of the respondents lacked a vehicle they could use everyday.

Stanley said he thinks the trolley would be “greatly utilized” by shoppers, patients at the Urgent Care facility and workers at the more than 2,000 industrial jobs in the corridor.

“I think the need is there anyway, but the jail certainly exacerbates the issue,” Stanley said of the survey results.

The service would cost $183,000 in its first year, half of which would come from the federal government and another 18 percent from the state. The county would pay the remaining 32 percent, some of which would come from local businesses.

“The concept is to get everybody who would benefit from it to participate,” Stanley said of the businesses.

Stanley said the Board of Supervisors must approve the filing of a grant request with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit and agree to match the grant if the state approves the application.

The expanded service would connect to the existing trolley service in a way that would allow travel to and from the downtown, which would make more job opportunities available to inmates who would otherwise be limited by the distance and lack of transit, Stanley said.

Stanley said the project requires no more than an initial one-year commitment.

“My hope would be to try it for a year,” he said. “If it doesn’t work, don’t fund it.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com.