Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Virginia’

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.