Our Mission

VRPI's mission is to strengthen and improve public policy with respect to both freight and passenger rail in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through objective and rigorous research, publication, education and outreach, VRPI strives to increase public understanding of freight and passenger rail and to promote public policies that will secure the future of inter-city rail as a cost-effective, sustainable and essential element of Virginia's 21st Century transportation system.

Our Founding

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.  

Our Publications

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 Committee

Meredith 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 Directors

Richard 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


Robert 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