Next Stop: Roanoke

Amtrak extends its rail service in Virginia.

The rumbling of passing trains is a familiar sound in rail history-rich Roanoke, a city that practically sprung up overnight alongside the mighty Norfolk & Western Railway. But this fall a new engine has been heard as passenger rail service returned to the Star City for the first time since 1979. 

Each morning, eight Amtrak cars with room for nearly 500 passengers leave Roanoke at 6:19 a.m. sharp for the roughly five-hour journey,  returning from Washington, D.C. each night at around 10 p.m. 

The new service is the result of substantial cooperation: Norfolk Southern owns the tracks, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation coordinated much of the work, and the local Roanoke government is building a new covered train platform downtown and a nearby train service yard at a cost of $99.7 million.

Amtrak reps are bullish about ridership, basing their projections on the approximately 92,000 people who purchased tickets from Lynchburg to D.C. from October 2016-March 2017, at a cost of $94 per round trip. 

Eventually, the plan is to extend passenger service even further, connecting Roanoke to Blacksburg and Bristol. For now, Joyce Waugh, president of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, expects the new service will benefit the city immediately: “If you’ve ever seen the outpouring of students in Charlottesville who ride the train, you know the true impact it can have on a community. The convenience and economic impact can be amazing.” Amtrak.com


This article originally appeared in our December 2017 issue.

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