Roanoke Seen as "Gateway to the West" For Passenger Rail

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With apologies to St. Louis, Miss., some see Roanoke as a sort of "Gateway to the West" for passenger rail in Virginia.

If all goes well at the governor's veto session tomorrow in Richmond, legislation could be passed that will pump $102 million in state taxpayer money over the next several years to upgrade the Norfolk Southern rail line between Lynchburg and Roanoke.

This would, in effect, lay the foundation for passenger rail service to return to Roanoke, area leaders say.

Roanoke City will start by kicking in at least $6 million over the next three years to repair a large storm drain that sits beneath the track in downtown Roanoke near the Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Bridge.

Initial plans call for Roanoke's passenger train station to sit near the bridge, between Henry Street (1st Avenue) and Jefferson Avenue on the south side of the tracks.

Roanoke City would be required to pay for the train station, too.

Some area leaders, like State Senator John Edwards, eventually see passenger rail expanding beyond Roanoke, into the New River Valley and even Bristol, making the Star City, in essence, the "Gateway to the West."


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