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Bristol Herald Courier – Youngkin ‘fully behind’ passenger rail service to, through Bristol

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Beth Rhinehart, Bristol Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, participate in a question-and-answer session with submitted questions by members attending the event Wednesday morning. Emily Ball Bristol, Herald Courier

Bristol Herald Courier – Oct. 26, 2022 | By David McGee

BRISTOL, Va. — Gov. Glenn Youngkin enthusiastically endorsed extending passenger rail to and through Bristol Wednesday during remarks at the Bristol Train Station.

Youngkin, who spoke about economic development, education and his energy policy during an event organized by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Cardinal News, was asked his thoughts about bringing Amtrak service to the Twin City.

“I think it’s a really interesting and important opportunity and we’re fully behind it,” the governor said to reporters after the program. “It will take three parties – we’ve got to get Tennessee with us and I think they are, but there is real work there. And we’ve got to get the federal government. When those three parties come together I think it can be great.”

He complimented area leaders in continuing to press for expanding rail service.

The state’s $5.8 billion 2022 rail plan would extend passenger service from Roanoke to the New River Valley by 2026 but contains no funding for bringing service further east.

A recent DRPT study estimated the cost for service to Bristol Virginia would be at least $530 million and likely would occur no sooner than 2030. Annual operation and maintenance costs are estimated at up to $5.5 million and projected service revenue of about $4.5 million to $4.9 million, based on between 9,700 and 15,500 new one-way net annual riders, according to the study.

Youngkin said the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is “very much engaged” in the efforts to extend passenger rail service.

“I have an open dialogue with Gov. Lee and we’re working hard with the federal rail authorities in order to bring this to life,” he said. “It will require all of us to make sure we express we need you to come together.”

Earlier this year the Tennessee General Assembly directed the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations to conduct a study of intercity passenger rail and make recommendations regarding the potential for passenger rail service linking the major cities in each region of the state. It is due July 1, 2023.

“Think about that future where we can have rail access, both passenger rail and commercial rail access that stretches from Nashville all the way up to Bristol and all the way up into the East Coast to get everybody where they need to go to,” Youngkin said. “I have an additional aspiration here which is to connect all of that down to our ports. I think it’s really important in making sure we have connectivity also for the tremendous capabilities that exist at the Virginia port and connect that back up into Virginia so businesses all over the commonwealth – and some outside the commonwealth – have access to this great capability.”

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