Having passed the six-month milestone since Amtrak ridership to and from the Roanoke Station began, state transportation officials are describing it as “impressive.” Ridership on the Washington, D.C. to Roanoke line increased by more than 8 percent over the prior year when the route ended in Lynchburg. This occurred at a time when passenger rail ridership numbers are down slightly both nationwide and in Virginia.
Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is monitoring the Roanoke ridership figures for two years before considering whether to make any further changes to the route, such as the addition of a stop in the Town of Bedford. The first six months of Roanoke ridership numbers point toward a promising outcome for those advocating a Bedford stop.
A Bedford stop will produce significant benefits to the state and region in the form of reduced subsidies to Amtrak, increased tourism, real estate stimulation, and economic development in the Town of Bedford, which was recently named a “Federal Opportunity Zone,” as nominated by Governor Northam. It would also increase net ridership above and beyond that of Lynchburg and Roanoke.
From a cost/benefit perspective, this proposed stop makes a lot of sense. The estimated cost of a Bedford stop, consistent with Amtrak and Norfolk Southern requirements, is very low because the track improvements needed for the extension to Roanoke have already been completed.
A rail stop in Bedford is a relatively small investment that will benefit citizens of and visitors to the counties of Franklin and Bedford, the Town of Bedford, Smith Mountain Lake, and portions of Botetourt County. The addition of a Bedford Amtrak stop is a meaningful show of support for public transportation in rural, southwest Virginia.
Bart Warner / Town Manager, Town of Bedford
Edgar Tuck / Member (District 2), Bedford County Board of Supervisors
Bob Camicia / Member (Gills Creek), Franklin County Board of Supervisors