City leaders expect Amtrak to benefit local economy

Rail service in Roanoke starts on Halloween

ROANOKE, Va. – Just two weeks away from Amtrak passenger rail service launching in the Star City, local tourism and economic development leaders are talking about how it will impact the area.

"This is certainly an exciting time for Roanoke and all of Virginia’s Blue Ridge," Visit Virginia's Blue Ridge president Landon Howard said.

The first Amtrak passenger train will pull out of the new station in downtown Roanoke on Halloween, giving commuters a convenient way to get to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. It will also potentially bringing lots of visitors to the Roanoke valley.

"We think a lot of people will be flying into D.C. and into other major markets and they're going to want to come in and see what we have here in the mountains in the eastern part of the United States," Howard said.

It's not just new visitors though, city leaders say Amtrak rail service will also attract new business.

"When we talk about outside businesses, they always want to know about our interstate highways, our airports and now we can add Amtrak service," Roanoke Economic Development director Wayne Bowers said.

It will also benefit businesses already established in the area, with the biggest boom expected downtown.

"They’ll be eating in the restaurants and shopping at the shops and just enjoying all the great things that downtown Roanoke has to offer," Bowers said.

The new service will bring new people and new opportunities to the Roanoke valley.

"We have great festivals and events. We have great arts and cultural experiences, so this is just a way for people to come in, see what we have and I think once they see it, they're going to want to come back again and again, and hopefully 10 other friends (will) come as well," Howard said.

Amtrak representatives said ticket sales are robust. Some days around Thanksgiving are already sold out.

Click here for more information about Amtrak services in Roanoke.