CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – Plans for bringing a passenger rail service to the New River Valley are chugging right along.
“We’re excited because the state is just all in behind passenger rail,” said Larry Hincker with the New River Valley passenger rail initiative.
On Friday, the governor signed a bill into law establishing the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority, which creates a governing board with stakeholders in the area and more importantly, clears the way for negotiations between VDOT and Norfolk Southern.
It’s expected 40,000 people would use the service every year. A big driver of that would be from Radford and Virginia Tech students.
“Half of the undergraduate students would be able to ride the passenger rail because that’s where they come from, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and so it’s really, really important to us,” Hincker said.
Diversified travel options are also critically important for business.
“Having increased access to the New River Valley is essential for industry for talent recruitment and retention purposes and also from a livability standpoint and quality of life, so being able to get to and from the New River Valley easily in another form of public transportation is definitely something that will help bolster the economy for the entire New River Valley,” said James Cabler, director of business engagement for Onward NRV.
Now the hard work begins on finding the money to make it happen.
Expanding rail service across Virginia could cost up to $200 million.
In the meantime, advocates are celebrating clearing another hurdle and waiting on the ticket to ride into a bright future.
“It’s one more transportation option for us and we hope that it won’t be too far in the future,” Hincker said.
It’s not clear how long this process is going to take, as the negotiations underway are for rail projects all across the commonwealth.