A recent bill signed by Gov. Northam approves the making of a passenger rail station in the Southwest Virginia region.

House Bill 1893, presented by Delegate Chris Hurst, will establish the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority. The New River Valley has the opportunity to be a part of this passenger rail revolution with train stations from across the Commonwealth.

The authority of this bill will be governed by a board composed of members of the local districts and institutions.

Several entities in the New River Valley region, such as Radford University, Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg and Christiansburg town councils, will pool their resources to share the cost of constructing the railroad.

The passing of this bill will lead to the creation of a 6.82-acre Amtrak station in the Christiansburg area. The town plans to pay $200,000 to the nonprofit Community Housing Partners for the land located between the Norfolk Southern rail line and the 100 block of Mill Lane.

New River Valley Passenger Rail spokesperson Larry Hincker stated in an interview on March 9 that this will be a “renaissance of passenger rail in this country.”

Members of the New River Valley Rail 2020 coalition have lobbied to extend Amtrak’s rail system in Southwest Virginia. This pursuit began when a station opened in Roanoke in 2017. The Roanoke station was the only station to show an increase in ridership between the years of 2017 and 2018; the route grew 9.5%.

“Norfolk Southern is at the table, but doesn’t have the resources to get it done,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. Relief funds could be the solution to accomplishing these goals. Passing this bill is the first step into getting passengers from point A to point B.

The budget for this project has received an $83.5 million amendment to extend the rail system into the region. This will bring new economic opportunities to the people of the New River Valley region and make traveling more accessible for students from other regions. Within the last six years there has been a resurgence in the amount of people coming to the Radford and Virginia Tech areas from outside the region. This new station will create an alternative method of transportation, cause less congestion on Interstate 81 and increase tourism to the New River Valley region.

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