Twin City leaders again renewed their commitment Tuesday to bring passenger rail to Bristol with a joint resolution by both city councils.
The Bristol, Va., and Bristol, Tenn., councils met at the Bristol Train Station Tuesday to review the progress made so far in passenger rail efforts in both states and to voice support for establishing an active passenger station in the city.
"...We strongly support the continuing implementation of freight rail improvements and passenger rail service by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, including the extension of Amtrak service to Bristol," the resolution states. "...We encourage the state of Tennessee to cooperate with the commonwealth of Virginia to coordinate railroad improvements along the Interstate 81 and Interstate 40 highway corridors to enhance the public benefits to both states."
The resolution was approved in time to get it into the hands of Tennessee legislators before the General Assembly convenes in mid-January, said Councilwoman Margaret Feierabend.
Virginia's General Assembly session also starts in January.
"Passenger rail service is something I've had a heart for for a long time," Bristol, Va., Mayor Guy Odum said. "We'd like to try to renew that spirit. ... Tonight is a renewed effort to get that done."
The push to bring passenger rail to the region has been inspired partly because of the success Lynchburg has had with passenger trains and the fact that Roanoke is expected to have a station running in 2016.
Roanoke Mayor David Bowers talked with council members via Skype Tuesday, and told them that before trains can come here, a bus system should be in place. That's the method Roanoke took, he said, and people rode buses to Lynchburg to take the train to D.C. and to the Northeast.
"We've got about two years to work on this and get it to where people can literally park their car in Bristol and get on the bus and get on a train in Roanoke," he said.
He also said that if other states are involved, it would likely help bring the rail traffic.
"My appeal to you in Bristol ... is to help building up the Roanoke line," he said. "In doing so, we are more likely to have an extension of service or some sort of multi-state service up to Roanoke."
Bristol, Va., Assistant City Manager Andrew Trivette, a member of the Bristol, Va./Tenn. Rail Coalition, said Bristol should make sure it's not far behind Roanoke in getting a station.
"We need to start thinking about the train station here and ... [ask ourselves] 'are we ready to handle passenger traffic?' " he said. "...What I'm suggesting is we need to start now looking at those questions so when it comes we have the answers. Really, the impetus is on us locally."
Copyright 2013 - Bristol Herald Courier, Va.