State rail leaders recommend denial of Bedford's $10 million funding request for Amtrak station

By  | 

BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Efforts to bring a passenger train station to the town of Bedford may get off track, if Virginia transportation leaders follow a new recommendation to deny funding for the project.

In a presentation to the Commonwealth Transportation Board's Rail and Transit Subcommittee April 9, staff with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) said they will not recommend funding for construction of a passenger train station in Bedford.

Leaders in the town of Bedford recently submitted a request, asking the Commonwealth Transportation Board for $10 million to fund construction of a train platform along Plunkett Street, which would serve riders of Amtrak's Northeast Regional service between Roanoke and Washington.

During last week's presentation, DRPT Chief of Rail Transportation Michael McLaughlin said a platform in Bedford is only expected to generate a net gain of 2,800 additional riders annually on the Roanoke to Washington Amtrak segment.

McLaughlin pointed to investments surpassing $100 million that have been made to support the Roanoke and Lynchburg stations.

"Our data shows a lot of those riders would come from the Roanoke and Lynchburg areas," McLaughlin said of the proposed Bedford stop. "It would not be a wise return on the investment to have another station in Bedford."

The Bedford Franklin Regional Rail Initiative, a group that formed to advocate for a train station in Bedford, commissioned a study of its own that indicated a Bedford stop would generate more than 12,000 new riders for the Roanoke to Washington service. The group argues a Bedford station would attract new riders from Smith Mountain Lake and Franklin County, and those who wish to visit those areas, that might not otherwise travel by Amtrak.

Members of the rail initiative are expected to meet later this week and discuss next steps, according to initiative committee member Steve Stevick.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will make a final decision in June on whether Bedford’s $10 million request to support the train station’s construction should be funded.