City leaders say Bristol, Virginia train station is ready for passenger routes | wjhl

BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL) — Bringing rail transportation back to Bristol, Va., is something the community has been working on for years, and city leaders say it’s rooted in its history.

“It was the place in Bristol where soldiers went to war and came home from the war,” Beth Rhinehart, a member of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, said of the city’s railway station. “It was the center of our center of major life events.”

There is a movement with legislators to make rail service a mainstream part of the city’s future. Virginia State Senator Todd Pillion has been working with the Federal Railroad Administration to pass Virginia’s state rail plan. This includes a request for federal funds to expand a passenger service to and through Bristol.

Bristol Railway Station Foundation Chairman Dan Bieger said the station is ready to host whatever is needed.

“All we really need are the modifications that Amtrak asks for, like a platform,” Bieger said. “In some places, all they have is a platform and they don’t have a train station, so we feel like we’re ready and raring to go.”

The train station has undergone renovations in previous years, which Bieger said have made it suitable for resuming rail service.

Bieger said rail transportation would offer another way for visitors and residents to travel by avoiding busy highways.

“Well, if you’ve traveled Interstate 81 at any time in the recent past, it’s clogged with trucks and cars, and rail travel is going to be a way to alleviate all of that,” Beiger said.

Bristol’s leaders believe they have the infrastructure to support such a project, and believe that attractions such as the Bristol Casino and music festivals will work as a draw.

Rhinehart believes that travelers would not just use the train to get to Bristol.

“This is also really a regional conversation,” Rhinehart said. “You think of all the connected counties, from Kingsport and Johnson City and Washington County, Virginia, that’s really the draw. It’s not just Bristol, it’s all those surrounding areas that people would travel to.”

On Wednesday, Rhinehart said grant applications for project funding are due soon and the money won’t be available until 2024.

The chamber of commerce plans to hold a meeting at the train station sometime in June to update leaders and the community on the status of the process.


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