NRV MPO selects location for passenger rail station
The New River Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) selected two Christiansburg sites as possible locations for an Amtrak passenger rail station. Working with the New River Valley Regional Commission (NRVRC) and NRV Rail 2020, a NRV-wide community group spearheading the effort, the MPO selected two sites in Christiansburg east and west of North Franklin Street near the aquatics center for a future Amtrak station.
"Based on market demand data, its central location in the New River Valley, and close proximity to the Norfolk Southern line, the Christiansburg locations make the most sense for a passenger station," said Dan Brugh, MPO Executive Director. The MPO made the decision at its regular meeting Jan. 7.
The MPO board considered the two Christiansburg sites and one in Radford on West Main Street near Henry Street. Late last year, after completing a market demand study, the NRVRC had identified nine locations throughout the New River Valley (Pulaski, Dublin, Radford, and
Christiansburg) for siting the rail station. Using criteria established by the MPO Technical Advisory Committee, Amtrak, and other guidelines the NRV Regional Commission staff filtered the nine locations to three and presented to the MPO for a final decision.
Prior to identifying station locations, the New River Valley Regional Commission conducted a market demand study throughout 2015. It determined that the area could easily generate demand for 40,000 trips per year.
"Our study was very conservative and we believe this area can certainly draw 40,000 trips per year. At Virginia Tech and Radford University alone there are more than 10,000 students from the DC metro area. In addition to their own travel, more than 60 percent of those students said their families would be more prone to visit if rail travel were an option," said Kevin Byrd, Executive Director, New River Valley Regional Commission.
The marketing study reveals at least 100,000 visits per year for university events alone, such as football, graduation, orientation, and other Radford or Virginia Tech fostered events. University related trips would comprise the bulk of the ridership.
"The Lynchburg service has been wildly successful generating more than 86,000 trips in 2014. They plan to soon add another train. Roanoke estimates more than 48,000 riders when they become operational in early 2017. There is increasing interest in rail travel up and down the mid-Atlantic region and Northeast Corridor. So, we feel service to the New River Valley will be well supported," said Ray Smoot, co-chair of NRV Rail 2020.
Byrd of the NRV Regional Commission noted that the market demand survey estimated as much as a 5 percent increase in tourism travel. Every 10,000 visitors generate about $1.9 million in annual economic impact.
"If we are to be successful in capturing interest at the state level, we need our citizenry to get involved and contact their legislative representatives to express support for extending passenger rail service to the New River Valley. This makes sense on so many levels – economic, environmental, and convenience," said Smoot.
According to Byrd at the Regional Commission, next steps include petitioning the state Department of Rail and Public Transit for funds to conduct an "operational study" by Norfolk Southern, owner of the tracks; engaging Amtrak; and garnering future General Assembly support.
NRV Rail 2020 was formed in 2013 under the auspices of the Blacksburg Partnership and counts membership from the towns of Blacksburg, Christiansburg, and Pulaski; city of Radford; Montgomery and Pulaski counties; Virginia Tech and Radford University; the Virginia Tech Foundation; the New River Valley Regional Commission, the New River Valley MPO, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, and the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance.
More information on the initiatives and reports from the Regional Commission can be found at www.nrvpassengerrail.org.