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Bedford-area organizations launch new effort to land Amtrak station

Published On: Aug 06 2014 10:24:40 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 11 2014 06:47:54 PM EDT

Transportation officials say Bedford doesn't need a train station, but some people in the community disagree. They're launching a new effort to build an Amtrak stop in the town, when service expands to Roanoke in 2017.

BEDFORD, Va. -

When Amtrak makes its long-awaited return to Roanoke in 2017, the train will travel on a track that runs directly through the town of Bedford.

"We would hate to see that there's not an opportunity for a stop in the Bedford area that could serve this region," said Susan Martin, president of the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce.

In a letter to Bedford leaders earlier this year, Virginia secretary of transportation Aubrey Layne laid out several concerns about a Bedford stop.

Layne believes the town's 6,200 residents could easily travel 25 miles to Lynchburg or Roanoke to catch a train.  He said stopping in Bedford would delay train schedules and hurt ridership numbers at the other stations nearby.

Martin believes Layne is missing the bigger picture.  Thousands of people come to Bedford year-round to visit places like the National D-Day Memorial, the Peaks of Otter, and Smith Mountain Lake.

"They didn't take a close look at those tourism numbers," Martin told WDBJ7 Friday.

She is working with the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce to pitch the train station idea in a different way.

Leaders of the two organizations believe Amtrak will pick up new riders from places like the lake and Franklin County, if it was possible to board a train in Bedford.

"It's just an ideal stop over," said Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce.  "It's also great for economic development in our region."

The two chambers are jointly circulating a petition, which they hope will garner at least 10,000 signatures.  Those names will be submitted with a formal letter to Governor Terry McAuliffe at a future date.

By rallying support from the community, chamber leaders hope the state will re-consider putting a stop in Bedford.

"It would be highly beneficial, for Roanoke, Lynchburg, and our area, to have a train stop right there in Bedford," said Gardner.

Click here to sign the petition.