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WCYB Story – Talks chugging along to bring passenger rail back to Bristol

WCYB – March 16, 2023 | By Ashley Hoak

BRISTOL, Va. (WCYB) — The iconic Bristol Train Station downtown, is often used for community events and more.

But soon, the platform could be full of passengers going to and from town, just as they did in the past.

Passenger service at the Bristol Train Station ended in 1971, but now plans are chugging along to bring it back.

The idea to bring passenger rail back to Bristol has been in talks for years, but now community leaders are more optimistic than ever. 

“My belief is that, of all the years, the decades that this effort has been underway by many people in this community, this is probably the closest and and most possible opportunity that we have had,” said Beth Rhinehart, Bristol Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO.

The Federal Rail Administration has now approved Virginia’s Statewide Rail Plan, with Sen. Todd Pillion saying it includes an effort to secure federal funding to expand passenger rail service to Bristol.

This past October, Gov. Glenn Youngkin told News 5, he’s in favor, which Rhinehart says is a great sign.

“I think it’s a really interesting and important opportunity, and we are fully behind it,” said Youngkin.

“It shows that he sees that as a priority, and we know that things that are priorities get funded and they get the attention that they need,” added Rhinehart.

Bristol Train Station Foundation President, Dan Bieger, says the train station is ready for passengers.

“We think we are ahead of most of the other people in that regard, we have a functioning train station that we hold weddings and Rotary meetings,” said Bieger. “All we need really is, what Amtrak says they need for a passenger platform.”

News 5 asked “Can you tell us a little bit about the economic impact that this may have, not only on Bristol, but the region as a whole, if this project does come to fruition?”

“It would be the icing on the cake for all the great things going on here, not just in Bristol, on both the Virginia and Tennessee side,” answered Rhinehart.

Rhinehart also saying Amtrak would provide another mode of transportation.

“We are at a very critical juncture in terms of travel — right on 81, between 26 and I77, and there’s a lot of activity in our region for sure,” said Rhinehart. “You have airplane travel which is not as convenient and handy as it used to be for this area, and then you have the interstates, which have become more and more crowded.”


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