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Governor signs off on creation of New River Valley rail authority

Governor signs off on creation of New River Valley rail authority

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The New River Valley has secured approval to form a regional authority to support the expansion of passenger rail service in Southwest Virginia.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced Friday that he signed legislation from Del. Chris Hurst, D-Blacksburg, and Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, to authorize the creation of the New River Valley Passenger Rail Station Authority.

The move, which was expected, will allow regional partners to share in the cost of building and maintaining a train station. Local officials for years have been advocating to extend Amtrak’s rail service westward.

The passenger line that currently serves Roanoke has been a success both in ridership and in revenue. The train generates a profit, and saw its rider numbers rise by 77% from 2009 to 2019.

The rail authority will include members from localities and colleges within the New River Valley.

The new state budget passed by the General Assembly also earmarked $83.5 million to support a passenger rail expansion. Transportation officials estimate that more than $200 million will be needed to seal the deal. Other sources of funding, including federal grants, are being explored.

Negotiations between the state and Norfolk Southern Corp. for an expansion are ongoing but no agreement has been announced yet.

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