Virginia 2022 Statewide Rail Plan

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Virginia 2022 Statewide Rail Plan

Using GIS to Create the Future of Rail Planning

The 2022 Virginia Statewide Rail Plan is the first digital-based rail plan in the country.

Typical state rail plans, including Virginia’s previous plans, are a PDF document with multiple appendices and static figures. As with most technical documentation, these present a significant barrier to engaging the public and understanding the data.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation sought to overcome some of the challenges posed by the traditional document. With the assistance of HDR’s geographic information system team, the department created a first-of-its-kind digital plan that is more accessible to the public and more useful as a planning document. This digital approach transformed dense, complex and static technical data into a dynamic, engaging and accessible format for both technical and public audiences.

Living Document

Our team leveraged Esri’s ArcGIS Online StoryMaps platform to bring the 2022 Virginia Statewide Rail Plan to life as an interactive application. Our team discovered innovative and visually appealing ways to present metrics from our modelers, rail planners and economists. Using this format, we modernized the way rail planning can be understood. 

The rail plan chapters cover:

  • the role of rail in statewide transportation
  • Virginia’s existing rail system
  • passenger and freight rail planned improvements and investments
  • the service and investment plan
  • public feedback received on the future of rail 

Each chapter contains dashboards, maps and web applications that present complex rail data in readily understandable formats. Based entirely online in Esri StoryMaps, the plan is a living document that enables stakeholders to dynamically engage with text, data and applications in a centralized and accessible platform.

Other Planning Services 

In addition to creating the new format, our team supported the creation of the plan in more traditional ways.

This included the economics team, who contributed a benefit-cost analysis and economic impact analysis. Our team also performed demographic and passenger travel demand projections, a commodity flow analysis and freight forecasting.

HDR’s strategic communications team conducted outreach, hosting online public meetings and surveys to create a public engagement report.

As part of the process, HDR also assisted with the statewide long-term service development plan, a document often overlaps the statewide rail plan.

empty train tracks in virginia
Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation

United States