FRA Southeastern Regional Rail Service Study May Lead to Restoring Chicago-Florida Service

Discussions about establishing a Jacksonville, Florida, to Nashville, Tennessee, intercity rail corridor are being seen as a precursor for linking Chicago and the Southeast by rail again.

Amtrak 3The discussion is part of the Southeast Regional Rail Plan study being undertaken by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Other routes being discussed include creating connections from existing Amtrak service to Ashville and Wilmington, North Carolina; and the North Carolina and South Carolina beaches and tourist destinations.

The study also is looking at opportunities for other east-west corridors, including those that might connect northward, e.g., Petersburg-Lynchburg, Virginia; Roanoke-Bristol, Virginia;  Knoxville-Nashville, Tennessee; and Nashville- Memphis, Tennessee.

A focus of the study is finding ways to bring service to college towns and their high concentration of frequent travelers.

Amtrak’s Floridian linked Chicago and Florida until being discontinued in October 1979.

There was direct service between Chicago and the Southeast in the middle to late 1980s and the early 1980s when through cars operated on the Capitol Limited and Silver Star via a connection in Washington.

In a related development, Amtrak said it expects to begin service between Lynchburg and Roanoke this fall provided that adequate station facilities are finished in Roanoke by that time.

The service will be funded by the State of Virginia and is an extension of a Northeast Regional service train that now originates in Lynchburg. Roanoke lost Amtrak service on Oct. 1, 1979, when the Catlettsburg (Kentucky)-Washington Hilltopper was discontinued.

The Virgnia Department of Rail is studying funding another train from Washington to Lynchburg that might be extended to Roanoke.

In another development, construction of a union station in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently passed the halfway point and is expected to open in early 2018.

Work began in May 2015 for the $90 million facility that will be served by Amtrak and Go Triangle bus service.

Once completed, Raleigh Union Station will have restaurants and shops and provide a venue for events.

Raleigh is served by the North Carolina-funded Piedmonts between Raleigh and Charlotte, the New York-Charlotte Carolinan, and the New York-Miami Silver Star.

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