With great enthusiasm, the Smith Mountain Lake and Bedford Regional Chambers of Commerce welcome Amtrak to Roanoke, VA. Together, we commend Amtrak, Norfolk-Southern, the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation for making this important investment in transportation connectivity for Southwest Virginia.
The new Roanoke Station, beginning service October 31, will enhance accessibility to all that Virginia’s Blue Ridge has to offer, including local wineries, historical sites, great restaurants, sports and entertainment venues, lodging and shopping. Beyond tourism, Roanoke-area residents will benefit from this reasonably-priced transportation alternative to popular destinations such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City, to name a few.
The establishment of a small passenger rail stop in the Town of Bedford will complement the new Roanoke station by generating additional ridership with a very small investment. It should be the next priority.
In terms of tourism, the Bedford area stands apart from other smaller towns due to the wealth of historical and recreational attractions, including Smith Mountain Lake (the largest lake wholly within the state), Peaks of Otter, National D-Day Memorial, and Poplar Forest, which generate $200 million annually. Making the area easier to access for visitors and vacationers will contribute to the expansion of the region’s increasingly important tourism industry.
For 91,000 residents, Bedford is at the hub of a large network of roads that would directly feed into the station. The population around Smith Mountain Lake (SML) swells from 25,000 in winter to almost 75,000 during the summer months. A Bedford station would provide one-seat service to the Lake from the Northeast Region, from which the preponderance of vacationers and visitors to the region originate. By providing a safe travel option that avoids the congested I-95 Corridor, the station would attract additional vacationers to the area.
SML enjoys a unique residential demographic of thousands of retirees from the Northeast Region who are accustomed to taking the train. This fact and petitions with over 10,000 signatures further demonstrate that a Bedford station would be readily used by retirees, their family members visiting from the Northeast, as well as businesses.
Additionally, a Bedford train station will catalyze revitalization of downtown Bedford – just as it did in other small towns, such as Culpeper, VA; Hattiesburg, MS; Brunswick, ME; and Centralia and Leavenworth, WA, among others. The train stop will create many new economic opportunities for businesses and individuals, generating important tax revenue for local governments and the Commonwealth.
Bravo to Roanoke in their effort to expand transportation services in southwestern Virginia. Progress should continue by moving forward with a stop in Bedford and the extension of service to the New River Valley and further south.
Vicki Gardner / Executive Director – Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce
Susan Martin / President/CEO Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce