Business leaders push for Amtrak to add stop in Bedford
Business groups and other organizations are trying to persuade the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to establish a small passenger rail stop in the town of Bedford.
Bedford sits almost halfway between the Lynchburg and Roanoke stations. Passenger rail returned to Roanoke on Oct. 31 after a 38-year hiatus.
“The stop would have an impact on the general community in terms of growth, business development and tourism,” says Susan Martin, president and CEO of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce. “It will help residents travel outside the area, and it will bring folks into the area.”
The Bedford area is home to a variety of tourist destinations such as Smith Mountain Lake, Peaks of Otter Lodge and the National D-Day Memorial. “Where you stop would be almost exactly 18 miles to Smith Mountain Lake,” says Vicki Gardner, executive director of Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The rail stop is expected to help attract retirees from the Northeast as well as families that want to live and work in the area. “We are rich in advanced manufacturing,” says Martin. “We have a great quality of life here that we can offer to a good, skilled workforce.”
Local proponents of Amtrak service also say people living in the area would have rail access to Washington, D.C. and New York, connecting them to larger airports for national and international travel. “We believe the stop could also attract people working in D.C. that would want to live here,” Martin says.
Backers also believe little additional infrastructure work will be needed to accommodate the station. “The key component is building a platform, cover and kiosk,” says Gardner. “We feel it makes great sense. It truly is economic development at its best.”
Before the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation makes a decision, it wants to take a minimum of two years to look at ridership numbers from the Roanoke station. “Then they will make the ultimate decision when and where new stops are added,” says Martin.