MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - With rail lines stretching coast to coast, Amtrak is pitching plans for a wider rail network in Tennessee. The plans include more trains and potentially two new routes.
Right now, Memphis’ Central Station sees two daily departures. An early morning train that heads south, the other leaving around 10:40 p.m. going north.
Amtrak told lawmakers on the House Transportation Committee this week they see the potential for growth statewide.
“Amtrak has almost no service in Tennessee and I would like to change that,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak Senior Director of Government Affairs.
Tennessee’s two Amtrak stations are on the City of New Orleans route. Taking railriders from The Big Easy to Chicago with stops along the way in Memphis and Newbern-Dyersburg. And with the Surface Transportation Bill up for re-authorization this year, Amtrak wants to make Tennessee part of its nationwide expansion plan.
"We are very interested in expanding that train from Carbondale to Memphis, one or two daily round trips, he said.
Amtrak is also proposing a new Nashville to Atlanta route and possibly a route between Memphis and Nashville.
“We are not quite ready to give birth to this proposal. I think it will come out in the spring and we will bring it to Congress and show this our vision for expansion of Amtrak services,” said Lang.
Though in the momentum and excitement of expansion, rail-based freight transportation company, CSX, says they need to be part of the conversation. Its railroad provides the foundation for passenger service in Tennessee.
“This is something that the host railroads are willing to examine with you. We just want to be sure on the front end that you understand that there could be negative impacts to freight service and economic development,” said Jane Covington, CSX.
This proposal is still in the early stages according to Amtrak. This spring, its final proposal will be presented at the Capitol for approval of federal funds to move forward.