Lawmakers push to bring Amtrak commuter rail through Tennessee

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Posted at 7:19 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 20:19:40-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Several state lawmakers hope a study about commuter rail could mean Amtrak connects Atlanta to Nashville.

The plan is to have Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) study the cost and feasibility of such a line in Tennessee.

Nashville Democratic Rep. Jason Powell announced a bill Tuesday morning that calls for the study. Not only would it allow the state to see how the rail could work but it would create a regulating body for the commuter rail.

"There is unprecedented momentum right now for rail and passenger rail here in the state of Tennessee because of the one trillion dollar infrastructure bill that's recently passed included in that is 66 billion dollars for rail," Powell said during a press conference.

Powell displayed a map of what the rail could look like, connecting Atlanta to Nashville, with a notable stop in Chattanooga.

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He said he believes the whole state would benefit from a commuter line. That includes rural areas the track passes.

"The line that's being proposed, the connect us line, has stops in Nashville, the Nashville Airport, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma and Chattanooga," he said.

The plan is receiving bipartisan support, even in its early stages. Bristol Republican Senator Jon Lundberg said his interest stems from the city's connection to Virginia. There could be an Amtrak line that connects to the border of Tennessee.

"The town of Bristol is literally split in two," said Lundberg. "Half of it is in Virginia, half of it is in Tennessee. Virginia has invested both time and dollars to extend their from Washington D.C. to Christiansburg to Roanoke and now they want to go to Bristol which makes perfect sense. But I want to make certain that when it gets to Bristol, it doesn't stop at the Tennessee border, it can come on through."

Lundberg said the tourism benefit would be huge for the area. He also imagined the line could connect through Knoxville to Nashville.

While the plan may encounter some resistance due to the potential cost, Powell said the use of federal dollars could help.

Speaker Cameron Sexton's office also released a brief statement. While not openly supporting the plan, they did suggest railway travel could benefit Tennessee.

"Speaker Sexton favors finding ways to increase railway travel in Tennessee, which will allow more of our citizens to connect with communities across the nation," said a spokesperson for his office.

The bill will be heard for the first time this week in committees.