Roanoke Mayor Anticipates Amtrak Service by 2018 - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke Mayor Anticipates Amtrak Service by 2018

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Bringing passenger trains back to the Roanoke Valley has been a dream for many, and now the city believes it could become a reality.

During Monday morning's city council meeting, Mayor David Bowers put a goal of 2018 to get trains humming through the Star City once again.

"What Roanokers want under the Christmas tree is passenger train service back in Roanoke," Bowers said.

The city has already hired an engineer to take a closer look at the logistics of the railway extension project.

Possible locations for a passenger station are being explored, including at the corner of Jefferson Street and Henry Street in downtown Roanoke.

But many obstacles remain, including where the funding will come from.

In a statement to Fox 21/27, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Director Thelma Drake said they will begin a capacity study on bringing passenger trains from Roanoke to Lynchburg in 2013.

Drake said money is being budgeted for rail improvements over the next six years.

"Much work remains to be done and progress is definitely being made, but there are too many unknowns at this time to project a service start date," she said.

Virginia State Senator John Edwards has made getting the railway extended to Roanoke a priority, but said he was unaware of the 2018 plan until Monday's council meeting.

"I had not heard that," Edwards said. "I know funding is an issue. If we can get more money then we can get it sooner."

Bowers is pushing for funding from the state legislature as soon as possible, but he acknowledges this is far from a done deal.

"No, I'm not confident," he said. "I think it's important for Virginia to act."