Feb 23, 2022 - News

Lawmaker pushes for passenger trains

Amtrak train in a station
Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

State Rep. Jason Powell wants the state to study the possibility of drastically increasing passenger rail service in Tennessee.

  • Powell has filed legislation asking a state commission to examine the feasibility, cost and infrastructure needed to expand rail.

What he's saying: Powell tells Axios he's making this push now in light of last year's federal infrastructure bill, which earmarked $66 billion for passenger rail.

  • "The key thing here is Nashville is the third-largest city without Amtrak service and the second largest with no passenger rail service," Powell says. "This makes a ton of sense. Let's make Nashville a centerpiece in the southeast for Amtrak."

Why it matters: Amtrak has proposed a route connecting Nashville to Atlanta through Chattanooga, which the company estimates would generate a combined $464 million in annual economic impact.

  • Powell unveiled his legislation in a press conference Tuesday. He also called for the creation of a state rail agency, which would report to the Tennessee Department of Transportation commissioner.
  • Powell and other lawmakers also announced the formation of the Train Travel Caucus. Powell says the new caucus will be a bipartisan group of lawmakers committed to expanding passenger rail service across the state.

Flashback: Then-Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn listed Music City as a dream addition during an interview last year with "Axios on HBO."

  • "I think Nashville would be a great place to stop," Flynn said. "I mean, how many country-western songs involve trains?"
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