Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Virginia’

Roanoke Eyes Building Amtrak Station

November 20, 2017

Now that Amtrak is serving Roanoke, Virginia, the city is now talking about building a train station.

Roanoke City Manager Robert Cowell said a deal is not imminent, but the city council has meet four times in secret sessions to discuss transit facilities, including acquisition of property to build a new mass-transit passenger center that could serve Amtrak.

“It’s a pretty fairly complex set of questions that the council is really wrestling with, never mind how to pay for any of this,” Cowell said.

Roanoke city buses are currently served by the Campbell Court bus station, which belongs to Valley Metro, and is located 250 feet from the railroad tracks used by Amtrak.

The three-floor facility is largely vacant and described as antiquated.

One idea being floated in the city is to build a multi-modal facility near the tracks and repurpose Campbell Court into stores, offices and housing.

The city had budgeted $4.5 million for the intermodal station project, which is less than half of what a consultant estimated the facility would cost.

Valley Metro does not own any land adjacent to the railroad tracks used by Amtrak.

City council member David Trinkle said the council is looking at creating a public-private partnership. “There’s just no way that facility is going to be built without that,” he said.

The council has justified its closed door meetings to discuss the proposed intermodal facility as consideration of the purchase of “real property” for public use or the “disposition” of the 13 real estate parcels that make up Campbell Court, or both, according to a purpose statement for the meetings.

The council has cited a clause in Virginia’s open meetings law that allows for when meeting publicly would “adversely affect” its bargaining power or negotiating strategy.

The Roanoke Times reported that there are four obvious locations for a train and bus station near the tracks.

These properties immediately adjacent to the Amtrak boarding platform include a renovated buildings known as Warehouse Row, which are leased to tenants; the Roanoke Station Garage, a parking deck; the surface parking lot across from Campbell Court operated by Tennessee-based Premier Parking; and the corner of Jefferson Street and Norfolk Avenue, occupied by multiple commercial buildings with tenants.

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Amtrak Begins Service in Roanoke

November 1, 2017

Amtrak returned to Roanoke, Virginia, on Tuesday when more than 150 passengers aboard Northeast Regional No. 176 departed at 6:19 a.m.

Many of the riders traveled to Lynchburg, Virginia, and returned by bus.

It was the first scheduled Amtrak departure from the hometown of the former Norfolk & Western Railway in 38 years.

A welcome ceremony was held on Monday afternoon and featured tours of a five-car special that included Amtrak business car Beech Grove.

The Amtrak station is located on Norfolk Avenue in the city’s downtown. The Commonwealth of Virginia pays for the service between Roanoke and Washington.

Roanoke’s last Amtrak service was the Hilltopper, which operated between Washington and Catlettsburg, Kentucky. It made its last runs on Sept. 30, 1979.

In Roanoke, Amtrak equipment will overnight at a facility with a small crew office along the ex-N&W Roanoke to Winston-Salem branch, close to the former Virginian Railway depot.

SmartWay Connector buses will shuttle passengers between the Roanoke station and Salem and Blacksburg.

Roanoke Set to Welcome Back Amtrak, Bedford Wants to be a Station on the New Route

October 27, 2017

A welcome ceremony to celebrate Amtrak’s return to Roanoke, Virginia, will be held on Monday on the new boarding platform.

The event will feature speeches by Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who championed the project, members of the Roanoke City Council and Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The ceremony and a ribbon-cutting are scheduled at 12:20 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m., the platform and train will open for tours. Regular service will begin on Oct. 31.

In a related development, authorities in the Bedford, Virginia, area are making a push to get Amtrak service.

On Nov. 9 they plan to hold a rally to show Amtrak and state leaders their interest in reviving rail passenger service to the region.

“We just want to show, at the state level and Amtrak, that there is support for this stop,” said Susan Martin, president and CEO of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation began surveying the town for a train station years ago.

Bedford is located on the route of the soon to be launched Amtrak Northeast Regional Service to Roanoke.

Like Roanoke, it was served by Amtrak until 1979 when the Hilltopper was discontinued.

The former Norfolk & Western station in Bedford has since been converted into a restaurant, but its owner, Harry Leist says the potential for more folks in his restaurant is a positive.

“When you increase activity, it’s a trickle-down effect, if I may use that term, and everyone benefits from it,” Leist said.

The New York-bound train is scheduled to pass through Bedford at 6:55 a.m. The Next Stop Bedford rally is set to begin at 6:30 a.m. at the proposed site of the Bedford stop.

NS to Study Extending Amtrak in Virginia

September 28, 2017

A study will be conducted by Norfolk Southern of the feasibility of extending Amtrak service west of Roanoke, Virginia, to Christiansburg in the New River Valley.

The area is located near Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. The study is being funded by $350,000 from the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board.

“With the concentration of students both at Virginia Tech and Radford this makes a lot sense for the region,” said Ray Smoot, chair of NRV 2020 and a former Virginia Tech administrator. “I think a lot of the ridership [out of Roanoke] will come from here.”

NRV 2020 favors locating a station in Christiansburg near the Aquatic Center.

Amtrak is slated to begin serving Roanoke on Oct. 31 by extending a Northeast Regional train that now terminated in Lynchburg, Virginia.

NRV 2020 conducted a 2015 study that estimated that service to the New River Valley would draw 40,000 passenger trips a year to cities such as like Lynchburg and Washington.

Tickets on Sale for Roanoke Amtrak Service

September 7, 2017

Tickets are now on sale on the Amtrak website for service to Roanoke, Virginia, that is slated to begin on Oct. 31.

A coach ticket from Roanoke was selling for $72 to Washington, $148 to New York and $168 to Boston when traveling in mid November.

Amtrak is extending a Northeast Regional route to Roanoke, which last had Amtrak service in 1979.

The train will depart Roanoke at 6:19 a.m. Monday through Friday and at 8:40 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The train will return to Roanoke at 10 p.m.

The Northeast Regional train that will serve Roanoke currently terminates in Lynchburg.

West of Lynchburg the train will use Norfolk Southern tracks that are now freight only.

Since 2011, Valley Metro has operated a bus from Roanoke to the Lynchburg Amtrak station. In 2013, Amtrak began selling Thruway tickets to Roanoke.

To bring rail service to Roanoke, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is paying about $103 million for capital improvements to the route, including construction of a boarding platform in downtown Roanoke.

Amtrak and local officials plan to conduct a welcoming ceremony in Roanoke on Oct. 30.

Amtrak Crews Qualifying for Roanoke Service

June 6, 2017

Amtrak crews are making non-revenue runs over Norfolk Southern tracks between Lynchburg and Roanoke, Virginia, to become qualified on the line.

Service is expected to begin this fall by extending an existing Northeast Regional service roundtrip to Roanoke.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation will fund the service. Efforts to restore Amtrak service to Roanoke have been ongoing for four years.

Roanoke was last served by the Hilltopper, which was discontinued on Oct. 1, 1979. That train operated between New York and Catlettsburg, Kentucky.

The route of the planned service to Roanoke will use a different route than the Hilltopper.

The latter train operated via Peterburg and Richmond, Virginia, whereas the Northeast Regional service will use the route of the New York-New Orleans Crescent north of Lynchburg via Charlottesville.

The service to Roanoke will be the fourth expansion of intercity passenger rail in the Commonwealth of Virginia since 2009 following new or additional trains to Lynchburg, Richmond, and Norfolk.

“The effort to expand rail options in Virginia has been made possible by the Commonwealth’s more than $100 million strategic investment in Norfolk Southern’s rail infrastructure, which makes this intercity passenger service extension possible,” Amtrak said in a statement. “Amtrak and DRPT continue a partnership to provide more intercity passenger rail travel in Virginia. Instead of driving on congested highway corridors like I-81, Route 29, I-95, and Route 460, travelers can use rail as a way to expand mobility and increase connectivity for travel throughout the regions served along the Northeast Corridor.”

Bristol Eyes Luring Amtrak to Come to Town

April 20, 2017

Public officials in Bristol, Virginia, plan to launch a study of what it would take to entice Amtrak to serve their region.

City officials plan to work with the Community Transportation Association of America in Washington to secure a consulting firm that will undertake a $450,000 economic benefit study of extending Amtrak’s Northeast Regional service from Roanoke, Virginia, to Bristol.

“We’re just about ready to prepare the RFP [request for proposals] for that study, and hopefully it will begin this summer,” CTAA spokesman Rich Sampson said Tuesday. “What we’re hoping our study will do is be a precursor to a second study, by demonstrating the need and the benefits of such a service. DRPT [Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation] would then do a study on the operational feasibility of the service.”

Amtrak expects to begin serving Roanoke later this year by extending a Northeast Regional train that now terminates in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Sampson said the state of Virginia is going to want two years of ridership data of the Roanoke service before it will participate in the Bristol study.

Bristol Mayor Bill Hartley said having Amtrak service would benefit his city in many ways.

“I look at what passenger rail could do for our downtown,” he said. “With two hotels, one hopefully opening this year, and the restaurants and entertainment, the infrastructure is there for people to come and make Bristol more of a destination.”

Some funding for the study will come from a $250,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission and $50,000 each from the city and CTAA, with CTAA also providing services as an in-kind contribution.

Once it gets underway, the Bristol study is expected to take six to nine months to complete.

“Virginia is perhaps the leading state right now in investing in new Amtrak service,” Sampson said. “They have three examples of where they have or are going to install new service — the Lynchburg train, the Norfolk train and the extension to Roanoke. Tennessee has not had any state support for inter-city passenger rail, so their level of involvement and interest is uncertain at this point.”

Although Bristol leaders once talked about getting support for service further southward to Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then creating a connecting service to Atlanta and Louisville, those routes won’t be part of the expected study of extending service from Roanoke.

Sampson said that expansion to Tennessee point won’t happen unless rail service first comes to Bristol.