Lawmakers push to expand Amtrak to connect major Tennessee cities

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Railroad Giant Amtrak unveiled its 2035 rail concept connecting many parts of America, mainly in the northeastern and southern United States

In Tennessee, people are pushing for Amtrak, which runs through Memphis and could link Nashville to Atlanta, to expand to other destinations in the state.

Amtrak’s concept map for 2035 – caused a stir on social media among some Tennesseans for expanded service. “Amtrak wants to be in Tennessee and they’re open to any routes as long as they make sense,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville).

In the proposed map rendering, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Nashville will be connected. But there is an appetite to do more. “Rail connects us all and it’s something an overwhelming majority of Tennesseans want and it’s on the table right now thanks to President Biden and this infrastructure bill,” Clemmons said.

Biden last year signed into law $66 billion in funding for passenger rail, the largest since Amtrak was founded in 1971.

“We need to step back to take this statewide, I want to connect it from Knoxville, to Memphis through Nashville, and then go north,” Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) said.

North connecting Music City to Louisville, Kentucky. Powell introduces a bill to create the Tennessee Agency of Rail and Public Transportation. “I think it’s important for the state to have an agency that’s just focused on ensuring that we have rail transit, commuter rail transit, across the state,” Powell said.

But existing rail companies may struggle with the expansion of passenger rail.

“CSX is actually in my district, so we have to welcome them, have them at the table to see what we can do,” Powell said.

Lawmakers say rail expansion could also be key to revitalizing rural Tennessee. “Amtrak wants to be here, the federal government is putting money in, so the only thing missing is what the state is doing, what local governments are doing, we should take yes for an answer,” Clemmons said.

Amtrak last stopped in Nashville in 1979.

Due to the federal holiday, Amtrak was unavailable for comment.

A train extension to Knoxville and Louisville would run into barriers related to typography and existing infrastructure.

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