Roanoke Amtrak Town Hall Meeting - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Roanoke Amtrak Town Hall Meeting

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Roanokers get their first look at the Amtrak passenger rail system in over a year. It's a project that has very special meaning for some who attend these town hall meetings, like Amtrak engineer Chuck Akers.

"Since I work out of Richmond now, that's a three hour drive," Akers says. "I wouldn't have to go up I-81 and fight the trucks and the wrecks."

It's a three hour drive he has to make six times a week. But with the new project in the works, it's a drive he hopes he won't be making much longer.

"There would be more time at home for me to be working out of Roanoke," Akers says. "It's near and dear to my heart; I would love to see passenger service in here before I retire."

Thelma Drake, the director of Rail and Public Transportation, says the plan will be a reality within the next four years.

Thanks to a new transportation bill, many financial concerns have been answered. Now, leaders are focusing on several other big aspects of the plan.

"There's a construction project the city will do with the old culvert downtown, the commonwealth has to go into contract with Norfolk Southern, and then it will just take the time we need to get the work done," Drake says.

Once complete, the passenger rail will offer stops all along the East Coast, making it easy for people in our area to reach New York or Boston within hours.

"For people out of Roanoke it would be a Godsend, a complete Godsend," Akers says.

It would also mean they'd no longer have to leave Roanoke to catch a train.