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The first phase of construction of a rail platform that will be part of an Amtrak service expansion to Roanoke, Va., has begun, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced yesterday.Involved in the project are the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), the city of Roanoke, Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corp. Anticipated to start in 2017, the Amtrak service to Roanoke will be an extension of the Northeast Regional train from Lynchburg, Va. It has been 34 years since an intercity passenger train has served Roanoke."Bringing passenger-rail service back to Roanoke will be an enormous economic driver for the region and the entire commonwealth," said McAuliffe in a press release.
The service will provide a same-seat trip from Roanoke to Lynchburg, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and Boston."Construction is a major development in our efforts to bring Amtrak service to Roanoke," said DRPT Director Jennifer Mitchell. "This new service is an example of the significant expansion of the commonwealth's passenger-rail service."Virginia is committed to reducing traffic congestion by offering alternate transportation choices to driving on congested highway corridors such as Interstate 81, Route 29, I-95 and Route 460, while expanding mobility and increasing connectivity for travel throughout the regions served by and along the Northeast Corridor, Virginia officials said."There is high demand for passenger-rail service in Virginia as demonstrated by considerable ridership growth throughout the commonwealth," said Jay McArthur, Amtrak's principal officer of state partnerships. "We have developed a strong partnership with the commonwealth and look forward to Roanoke as another service expansion in Virginia's successful rail program, providing passengers with a convenient and pleasant service to Washington and other Northeast Corridor destinations."Roanoke is the latest step for Virginia to lead the way as one of the few states in the country to successfully negotiate the addition of new intercity passenger-rail service in major rail corridors, balancing freight and economic development needs with additional intercity passenger rail options, Virginia officials said.
"Norfolk Southern and DRPT have a track record of success in implementing passenger service in Virginia," said James Hixon, NS' executive vice president of law and corporate relations. "We have made investments in our network, here in Roanoke and across the state, to ensure that passenger service is done safely and efficiently."