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WDBJ – Virginia Amtrak ridership exceeds expectations as planning for more service continues

WDBJ – Jan. 12, 2023 | By Joe Dashiell

RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) – Virginia’s Amtrak ridership continues to exceed expectations. And with additional service now in the works for western Virginia, state rail officials are beginning to look at what comes next.

The director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation briefed members of the House Transportation Committee Thursday morning. Jennifer DeBruhl told lawmakers the state is breaking records every month with Amtrak ridership.

“We typically see a drop in ridership in the fall, that’s around summer travel, things like that, but September was the highest September of all time, October was the highest October all time, November was the highest November of all time,” DeBruhl said. “We’re headed in the right direction with our Amtrak program.”

Of particular interest to potential passengers in western Virginia is the extension of service to the New River Valley, and DeBruhl said the goal of starting service in 2026 is still looking good.

“We’re on track to do that, with an estimate of 80,000 new riders just in the first year after that extension is complete,” DeBruhl said, “so this project is critically important and underway as well.”

And there’s more. The new statewide rail plan looks ahead to the next stage of development, beginning the work that could lead to passenger rail for Bristol, as well as east-west service across the state.

Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt Co.) chairs the House Transportation Committee.

“I do support the Bristol connection. As you know I’ve always publicly stated that. And the East West corridor I think is really important,” Austin said. “If we can get from Lynchburg to Richmond and on to Tidewater, that would be a great advantage also.”

Bedford was also on the list of projects in the development pipeline.

DRPT says it’s working with the town to develop a plan and cost estimates for a new station and future service there.

And in the meantime, bus service connecting Bedford to the Lynchburg Amtrak station is expected to begin in the spring.

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