Bristol, VA city leaders hopeful passenger rail train will become reality by 2019

Imagine being able to take a train from Bristol, Virginia to Washington D.C.

It’s an idea Bristol city leaders have been considering for years, and we found out Monday its closer to becoming a reality.

We have followed this story for years now.

Back in 2013, then-governor Bob McDonnell announced a passenger rail extension would reach from Lynchburg to Roanoke for the first time in 34 years.

Fast forward to 2015, and it is a concept Bristol, Virginia Mayor Archie Hubbard says they are still moving forward with in our region.

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When we spoke to mayor Hubbard on Monday afternoon he said he remembers when passenger rail trains moved through the area.

“I’m old enough to remember trains coming in there and actually taking trains from here. As a school, I went to New York on the train from that station,” said Hubbard.

Some of Hubbard’s memories could once again become a reality, but before anyone jumps in line to buy a ticket, there’s still a long process ahead.

First Hubbard says they have to study the idea, asking themselves if it is even feasible to bring a passenger rail train to Bristol, Virginia.

“Is there enough population? Is there enough need to actually do it? What the cost would be for the railroad?,” said Hubbard.

They are questions that come at a price as it costs around $500,000 just to get the study done.

Mayor Hubbard says so far they have raised around 98% of that through grants from different agencies.

In the meantime the city of Bristol is also asking for support from neighboring cities and counties with letters.

The letters of support detail extending passenger rail service from Roanoke to Bristol with a goal of getting it done by 2019.

Washington County, Virginia administrator Jason Berry says he feels the passenger rail could help the local economy, and bring back something the community has missed for decades.

“I think a lot of our citizens in America from larger municipalities may come here for vacations and spend money. Passenger Service in Washington County ended in 1977 when the Creeper Trail stopped operating as a rail service, so I think our citizens embrace rail because our community was built around the community of railroad support and service,” said Berry.

Mayor Hubbard says he hopes the feasiblity study will start in the next few months, with a goal to have the passenger rail train in Bristol by 2019.

Copyright 2015 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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