VRPI was conceived in 2002 by a group of citizen rail advocates affiliated with Virginians for High Speed Rail (VHSR) who believed there was a need for an independent, academically-oriented rail policy research and development center to support public policymaking for rail in Virginia.
In 2004, VRPI sponsored a forum on Transportation Connectivity, attended by representatives from all major transportation modes and transportation user-groups. As an outgrowth of the forum, VRPI was formally incorporated and established as a 501 (c) (3) organization in 2005.
The original Directors and Fellows of VRPI represented a wide range of backgrounds in public policy and transportation, including members from Virginia's major university-based transportation research centers.
VRPI's founders prepared a Proposed Rail Plan for Virginia in 2004 that included a history of rail in Virginia, an examination of the present state of rail, and specific proposals for how rail should move forward.
In 2006, VRPI published its first major policy paper dealing with issues arising out of public funding of rail infrastructure on privately-owned rail rights of way. This document anticipated that large investments of public funds would be appropriated annually for rail capital projects as a result of recently-passed legislation establishing a dedicated fund for this purpose (the Rail Enhancement Fund) (REF).
In 2010 VRPI published a report on the effectiveness of the Rail Advisory Board, an appointed citizens board charged with developing recommendations for allocating REF funds and "identifying, developing and advocating projects and policies" for rail transportation.
VRPI also has produced various comment letters and reviews, including in-depth reviews of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation's 2008 and 2013 Statewide Rail Plans, comments and recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration on the Future of the Northeast Corridor, and comments to the Commonwealth Transportation Board regarding its on-going review of the first decade of the Rail Enhancement Fund.
In addition, articles by individual members of the VRPI Board and Fellows have appeared in a variety of national and statewide publications devoted to transportation or public policy.
Board of Directors and Fellows
The Directors and Fellows of VRPI include both active and retired rail professionals, nationally-recognized experts across a variety of transportation-related fields, and individuals who have forged transportation public policy at both the state and regional levels of government.
Officers/Executive CommitteeMeredith Richards, President Mark Perreault, Vice-President John J. Beall, Jr., Secretary/General Counsel Daniel Plaugher, Treasurer Richard L. Beadles, At Large Kenneth Briers, At Large Trip Pollard, At Large
Board of DirectorsRichard L. "Dick" Beadles Former President, RF&P Railroad; Founder, VRPI & Virginians for High Speed Rail John J. Beall, Jr. Former Senior Assistant Attorney General (Chief) of Virginia, Transportation Section Kenneth A. "Ken" Briers Board of Directors, National Association of Railroad Passengers; Former Railroad Operations Analyst, Parsons Transportation Group; Former locomotive engineer in the Northeast Corridor Dwight Farmer Former Executive Director, Hampton Roads Planning District Commission & Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization David Foster Executive Director, RAIL Solution; Former Executive, Norfolk Southern Corporation; Former Officer and Director, Salem Historical Society; Helped establish the O. Winston Link Museum in Roanoke Alfred "Al" Harf Executive Director, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission; Former positions with NJ Transit, NJDOT and Federal Transit Administration Hon. Wiley F. Mitchell, Jr. Attorney with Wilcox & Savage; Former Senior General Counsel for Norfolk Southern Corporation; Former Member of Virginia Senate Mark Perreault Former Attorney, Norfolk Southern Corporation; U.S. Navy (Ret.) Daniel Plaugher Executive Director, Virginians for High Speed Rail; Named one of Richmond’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2011 Trip Pollard Senior Attorney and Director of Land and Community Program, Southern Environmental Law Center; Author on topics of Transportation and Land Use Hon. Meredith Richards, Ph.D. Founder and Chair, CvilleRail and The Piedmont Rail Coalition; Former Charlottesville Vice-Mayor John B. Thompson Director of ThompsonMcMullan Law Firm specializing in commercial transactions and litigation; Former General Counsel of VRPI Walter R. T. Witschey, Ph.D. Research Professor of Anthropology and Geography, Longwood University; Former Director, Science Museum of Virginia Robbyn Gayer, Ex-Officio Incoming President, Virginians for High Speed Rail; Chair,Transportation & Infrastructure Committee for the Future of Hampton Roads, Inc. Michael L. Testerman, Executive Director Founder and President, Virginia Association of Railway Patrons; Vice-Chair, RAIL Solution; Treasurer, Virginians for High Speed Rail; Council of Representatives (Virginia), National Association of Railroad Passengers
FellowsRobert E. Bryant Founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Buckingham Branch Railroad Hon. Whittington "Whitt" Clement Partner, Hunton & Williams; Former Virginia Secretary of Transportation and Member, Virginia House of Delegates Hon. Thelma Drake Former Director, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation; Former member, US House of Representatives and Virginia House of Delegates William Clifford "Cliff" Dunn Council of Representatives (Virginia), National Association of Railroad Passengers; CEO, Modern Machine and Tool John G. Hekman Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.); Executive Director, Virginia War Memorial Educational Foundation George E. Hoffer, Ph.D. Economist and Professor Emeritus in the School of Business, Virginia Commonwealth University; Nationally recognized as a foremost transportation economist. Frances R. "Fran" Hooper Former Director of Member Services, American Public Transportation Association; Consultant in bus and rail transit operations, public procurement, governmental relations and association management. John L. Knapp, Ph.D. Economist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service; Former Editor, The Virginia Newsletter James "Jim" McClellan Former Senior Vice-President for Planning, Norfolk Southern Corporation; Among core group creating Amtrak, Conrail, and Norfolk Southern; Managed split of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern Ray Pethtel Former Director, Transportation Policy Group, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; Former Virginia Transportation Commissioner; Founding Director, Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) William "Bill" Schafer, III Former Director of Strategic Planning, Norfolk Southern Corporation; Director of Development for Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum; Founder, Southern Railway Historical Association