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Amtrak yesterday hosted its 11th "Great American Stations" event to share expertise and experience with local communities interested in building or restoring train stations to meet a growing demand for passenger-rail service.Yesterday's event was held in Memphis, Tenn., for leaders of communities along the City of New Orleans (Chicago-Memphis-New Orleans) and Texas Eagle (Chicago-Little Rock-San Antonio) routes. Case studies and presentations of transportation-oriented development and funding sources were presented.Working with communities to improve stations is important to the growth of Amtrak, which has set 10 annual ridership records over the past 11 years, Amtrak officials said in a press release. About a third of the more than 500 stations served by Amtrak are owned by local municipalities; 20 percent belong to freight railroads; and 14 percent are owned by transit agencies.Amtrak also owns about 14 percent of the stations, mostly in the Northeast."Meeting directly with communities is an important part of the Great American Stations project," said Joe McHugh, Amtrak's vice president, government affairs and communications.More than two dozen station projects have been able to "put shovels in the ground or hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony due to the partnerships" formed through such Amtrak-community meetings, he added.
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