Passenger Rail Coming to the New River Valley in 2020

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By Bailey Speer | bspeer1@radford.edu

Train travel may experience a revival in the New River Valley as soon as 2020. The project, fittingly dubbed “New River Valley 2020” is on track, according to spokesperson Ed Lawhorn, who addressed the Radford City Council on Sept. 24.

When finished, the project would allow passengers to board a train in Christiansburg, Va and ride it as far as Boston, Ma.

The clear appeal of cheap travel which allows commuters to avoid the I-81 corridor is one of the main draws of the project. With two universities in the area, the ridership is projected to be stable between the New River Valley and Northern Virginia.

Several potential sites were surveyed for the new station around the region before a portion of land near the Christiansburg Aquatic center was settled on. The land in question has already been partially purchased by the town of Christiansburg, with just a few acres remaining to be closed on.

There were several specific qualities the project was looking for. Ed Lawhorn said in an interview with The Tartan,
“It was done by the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Regional Commission, with a key being proximity to population, having a good road network around the site and sufficient land for facility network.”

During his presentation to the city council, Lawhorn explained the projects next steps. One of which is a study on any operational and maintenance challenges the current rail line might pose. The other important study to be conducted by the committee will be the ridership study by Amtrak.

To help fund these studies and the completion of this project the state has given a grant of $350,000.

For Lawhorn, the work will be worth it for both the future riders and the region. With the addition of another travel option, the traffic on the interstate will hopefully be less heavy, and more economic opportunities will likely come to the New River Valley.

According to the project’s website, nrvpassengerrail.org, the New River Valley has the fastest growing population in the region. This fact, coupled with the prominent universities in the area means that adding another means of travel will draw further attention to the area.

More potential students will have easy access to the region, a fact that is sure to make their parents happy.

With construction starting on a number of new businesses in Christiansburg, the committee hopes that the new transportation hub will further the growth to all of the New River Valley cities. With the potential for new jobs, more students, and more financial stability for the region it’s easy to see why so many community members are jumping on board the passenger rail project.

Photo Credit: (nrvpassengerrail.org)