Residents in Bedford and Franklin counties were given the opportunity to voice their opinion on a potential Amtrak stop in the Town of Bedford on Sept. 26. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation held an informational open house in Moneta to gauge public interest in adding the stop.
The event was one of the first steps in the DRPT’s Bedford/Franklin Regional Passenger Rail Stop Study. Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $300,000 to conduct the study in June.
“The study has started, “ said Emily Stock, DRPT’s manager of rail planning. “We have had an internal kickoff meeting, but we don’t have results yet. We haven’t got into the meat of it yet.”
The study will develop a conceptual design and cost estimate for station-area infrastructure improvements necessary to provide Amtrak service and will analyze potential ridership, considering two years of data from the Washington-Roanoke state-sponsored Amtrak Northeast Regional service.
DRPT is leading the study in cooperation with representatives from Bedford and Franklin counties, the Town of Bedford, Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce and Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from each of the groups were in attendance at Thursday’s meeting.
The open house provided the public with an opportunity to share their thoughts as the study gets started. “We want to get their input on these topics and make sure we are on the right track,” Stock said.
Few were in attendance to provide their comments. Less than 20 people came out for the open house held Trinity Ecumenical Parish in Franklin County.
Those that did attend seemed overwhelmingly in favor of adding the rail stop in Bedford. Maxine Edwards of Hardy said it would make it easier to visit family in Maryland and would be more convenient than driving or flying.
“I’m at the age where train travel is very appealing,” Edwards said.
Alice Ganiaris of Moneta is already a frequent user of the Amtrak stop in Lynchburg. She takes frequent trips by rail to visit family in New York and New Jersey. “I’m very much in favor of a stop in Bedford,” she said.
Ganiaris said traveling by rail was already a faster and more convenient option than flying. The addition of a closer stop in Bedford would make it even easier, she said.
In addition to the meeting on Thursday, the DRPT is developing an online survey that will be available sometime in October. It will give the public another opportunity to provide input on the study. Stock said the survey will gather information on the travel patterns of people in the community as well as visitors.
Results of the survey as well as comments from the Sept. 26 meeting will be used in developing the study. Stock said the DRPT is expected to have the results of the study sometime in March. Another public meeting will be planned once the study is complete, she said.