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Town to assist in feasibility study for Amtrak stop

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By Tom Wilmoth

    The group has a logo, a dream and some proposed plans.
    And now it will have the help of the town of Bedford staff.
    The logo: “I WANT a Train Station in Bedford.”
    The dream: For Amtrak to add Bedford as a stop on its route between Roanoke and Lynchburg, scheduled to begin in 2017.
    The plans: three possible sites for the station in Bedford to be located.
    And town council agreed last Tuesday for town staff to assist the group in looking at the feasibility of those proposed stops.
    Stephen Stevick presented the proposal to town council last week, asking for council to authorize the staff’s help. The proposal passed unanimously, 6-0; Councilman Steve Rush was not at the meeting.
    Utilizing a PowerPoint presentation, Stevick told council that having Amtrak stop in Bedford could be “a powerful source for economic development and tourism.”
    “It can be a catalyst for development,” he said.
    He added that the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s reasoning for not proposing a stop in Bedford “raised more questions than it answered.” When the Roanoke to Lynchburg route was approved, the town received a letter from DRPT stating the town’s population wasn’t enough to support a stop.
    But proponents of a rail stop in Bedford said DRPT didn’t take into account the regional support for a stop here from both the greater Bedford County and Franklin County areas.
    The group, with its proposed logo, “I WANT a Train Station in Bedford” has begun a petition drive and Stevick said there is widespread support for a station in the town, adding that the group is in the process of generating additional community support. He presented three possible locations for the station to be located.
    “I think it is a positive thing,” stated Councilman Jim Vest.
    Mayor Bob Wandrei, while he didn’t say he opposed the proposal, did have concerns.
    “There are a lot of unknowns,” he said. “I am skeptical.”
    Those unknowns included who would maintain the station and pay for its upkeep.
    Wandrei added that, as a rider on trains in the past in the northeast, he wouldn’t want to stop every 25 miles to pick up or drop off a couple of people.
    The resolution passed by town council stated that groups in Bedford and Franklin counties have “expressed strong support for a rail passenger station stop in the town of Bedford.”
    The resolution notes that the town’s 2012 comprehensive plan calls for a rail station here and stated that “Bedford views the placement of a Bedford passenger rail station stop as a vital element in meeting the town’s current needs and plans for growth and economic development, while serving the regional passenger rail transportation needs and plans of Bedford and Franklin counties.”
    The resolution authorized town staff to enter into negotiations with DRPT and other state and local government officials, as well as area citizen groups, to work towards having a rail station in the town.
    Council did not commit any money or resources at this point towards the station. . A petition is available at www.thebedfordstation.com.