ROANOKE, Va. – Amtrak is officially in Roanoke.
On Monday, local and state officials, as well as community members, turned out to witness Amtrak's inaugural run into the city. The train trip began in Lynchburg, where lieutenant governor and gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam made a stop. Then, the train headed west to Roanoke.
"This is an absolutely incredible day and experience. Just being able to sit with your friends and leisurely travel, to have refreshments. This is the way to travel," said Anita Price, Roanoke vice-mayor.
Amtrak train rides in and out of Roanoke begin on Tuesday, marking the return of passenger rail service to the star city for the first time since 1979. Monday was a historic moment for the city, and there was plenty of excitement in the air as the train pulled into the platform to cheers and a crowd of supporters.
"After 38 years of no passenger service, let me assure you that Amtrak could not be more excited to work with Norfolk Southern to bring service back to this town," said Joe McHugh, with Amtrak.
The economic impact of Amtrak's entrance into Roanoke is predicted to be pretty impressive.
With trains cycling back and forth from Washington D.C., New York and Boston, officials say Roanoke area businesses should be prepared for a boost.
"This is not just about putting people on trains. It's about improving our quality of life and the economy," said Aubrey Layne, Virginia secretary of transportation.
Layne credits the McAuliffe administration, the Department of Rail and Public Transportation and other state and local agencies with helping make this new service a reality. On Tuesday morning, when Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 176 blows its horn and departs from Roanoke, all the hard work will be worth it.