Christiansburg continues push toward passenger rail

Buying land could be next step in quest for Amtrak station, leaders say

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. - There are more developments in the push to have passenger rail travel extended to the New River Valley. Leaders in Christiansburg are trying to plan ahead.

They want to buy an area of land that could be used for an Amtrak station and parking. They’ve picked out lots just north of the Christiansburg Aquatic Center, which would cover about 9 total acres and would cost $200,000. The town council would need to approve the purchase.

Leaders have been working on these plans for a few years.

They believe there’s a demand for rail travel to northern Virginia, and there’s a lot of interest from people in the NRV, including Virginia Tech and Radford University students.

“We're trying to do as much work as we can at this point to be ready for when it happens. We don't want to have it happen and then take three years to figure out what kind of station we're going to have,” Christiansburg Mayor Mike Barber said.

The tracks may need improvements before a station arrives. Railroad companies are currently looking into that. They will also be studying the success of the first two years of Roanoke’s station, according to Barber.

He said the current plans -- which are still open to revision -- call for a three-level station with additional parking at the top, shops and a ticket office on the second level, and space for boarding on the ground floor.

Barber said they don’t yet know how much the station itself would cost but surrounding areas have pledged funding support.

Leaders said the land they’re buying could be used for more parking if they can’t reach a deal for passenger rail service. Before the current area was selected, there were 27 possible sites for the station in locations from Christiansburg to Pulaski.

The town has already bought other lots near the aquatic center for $160,000 that are a combined 1.2 acres. There are plans to turn that area into more parking for the aquatic center.

A New River Valley Regional Commission study estimated that there will be around 40,000 passengers getting on or off at the station in Christiansburg in the first year it’s open.

The rail history in Christiansburg goes back to the mid 1800s.

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