Passenger Rail Service To Roanoke Delayed

Roanoke, VA - Rail passenger service to Roanoke has been the topic of a long running discussion. Now that city's mayor says state officials are telling him the service will eventually be a reality.

Virginia officials are shooting for 2018 for the first regular train passenger service offered in the star city in 39 years.

Earlier projections already had city officials expecting the service. However, they excepted the passenger service to be in place three years earlier than what the state now says.

In September, Mayor David Bowers heard state officials say Roanoke is next in line for passenger rail service. Especially now that the link from Norfolk to Richmond is underway.

"The good news is that passenger train service is coming to Roanoke. The bad news is it's slated for 2018. I'll be on social security by then," said Bowers.

Bowers expected the service to be in place by 2015. Now, they're being told it won't be in place until at least 2018.

It is a step closer for Roanoke to finally be linked to Amtrak again, but it is also something that the city has heard before.

Last year engineers scouted downtown areas for a new train station. The success of Roanoke's temporary bus link to the Amtrak station in Lynchburg proves the city is ready for a renewed commitment.

Mayor Bowers sees a problem, though.

"What we are trying to do is expedite the funding formula."

"We don't have [the program yet]. And the people of Virginia need to make sure the General Assembly, and the Governor, respond to our transportation needs," Bowers continued.

The mayor says if transportation issues like rail service aren't built into the upcoming budget, Virginia will continue to fall behind.

"If we're going to compete with other mid-Atlantic states, we're going to have to come up with a funding formula sooner than later," Bowers said.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation says a capacity study into linking Lynchburg to Roanoke via passenger rail, will begin in 2013, but acknowledges that funding remains the challenge.

A new federal law will starting next year will force the commonwealth to pony up for a total of six current Amtrak lines in Virginia.

That's four more than the state is responsible for right now.