NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — President Joe Biden's current infrastructure plan includes $80 billion for rail, which Amtrak says will help trains roll back into Nashville.
Last year, COVID-19 brought plans to study a Nashville to Atlanta line to a halt in the state legislature. But Amtrak says the President's plan brings new hope that the passenger rail service may return to Nashville for the first time in decades.
"We intend to work with the President and Congress to leverage this investment to put service where it's really needed," Amtrak Spokesperson Marc Magliari told NewsChannel 5 Traffic Anchor Rebecca Schleicher over Zoom, "and in Nashville and that part of Tennessee it's very needed. If you're driven on any highway in or around Nashville you’ve gotta know there's a better way than that."
Amtrak released a route map showing Nashville connecting to Atlanta through Murfreesboro, Tullahoma and Chattanooga. The six and a half hour route was first proposed last year.
But now that federal money could be up for grabs, some, like State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, are clamoring for more routes connecting Middle Tennessee to the rest of the country. A tweet Clemmons wrote expressing the desire to connect to Memphis and Louisville (and eventually Chicago) received more than 600 likes and dozens of replies and retweets.
— John Ray Clemmons (@JRClemmons) April 1, 2021
He thinks additional lines would been an economic boon for the city that's become a hot tourist destination.
"We have a lot of bachelorettes from Chicago, for example, because Nashville's easy to get to from that airport so just imagine if we had rail lines coming from different directions and how easy that would be," Clemmons said, "I think we would really see growth in our local economy, and I think business travel would pick up too."
Clemmons says he's already made calls to people in DC and to Amtrak to try to get those lines included.
Magliari with Amtrak says the map is just a starting point. He also mentioned Memphis, Louisville and even Knoxville as future options.
"This is a starting point, this is the beginning of a conversation asking people in Tennessee where they want to connect," he said.
Details haven't been determined related to the location of a potential station in Nashville. Though Magliari noted he often gets asked about the former location, Union Station. That line was shuttered in the late 1970s to save money.
He said a station's location must connect people with other modes of transportation, wherever that makes the most sense.
The President's plan faces stiff Republican opposition, as critics cite the bill is too expansive and expensive. And many oppose the current plan to pay for it via raising corporate income taxes.
“Biden's plan includes the largest tax hike in nearly three decades, but of course, coastal elites will have their taxes slashed. It will strip Americans of their right to work by forcing them to join Democrat-backed unions. This ‘infrastructure’ plan is another Trojan horse for the radical left,” said Senator Marsha Blackburn.
But local Democrats like Clemmons are on board to fund the rail service and bring it back to town.
"Nashville has a great opportunity and we can't let us pass us by," he said.