Amtrak officials are interested in new train service between Atlanta and Nashville with a stop in several cities including Chattanooga.
Rep. Dan Howell was part of a state Transportation Committee hearing on the topic this week.
He said, "The hearing on Tuesday was a follow up to meetings in early December with Amtrak officials, TDOT Commissioner Bright and members of his staff, myself and Senator Massey, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee.
"Prior to the hearing, we also had a meeting with Governor Lee on the issue."
Howell said, "I felt there was sufficient interest in the subject to warrant a hearing with the full House Transportation Committee.
"As I explained in my remarks to the Committee, the purpose was to begin the process of gathering information about possible routes, potential ridership, financial commitments, etc., as well as an overview of how the state would need to be involved.
"As Amtrak Official Ray Lang explained in his presentation, 17 states are currently under contract with Amtrak, Ridership is increasing, especially in the more populated areas, which would fit the profile of Nashville, Memphis and Chattanooga, with some potential stops along the route, in such cities as Jackson, Murfreesboro, Tullahoma, etc.
"I do feel this plan has promise, but I recognize it is a long range goal and greatly depends upon Congressional approval of the upcoming Surface Transportation bill… possibly in March-May.
If that bill is approved, Amtrak will provide us with additional information on how a potential grant program would work to assist states with upgrades to the railroad infrastructure.
"I am hopeful and grateful for the support the idea has received from other members of the Legislature. However, there are a lot of moving parts and it could take three to five years to bring it together. But, we have to start somewhere, and with the population growth we are seeing in Tennessee, and increased pressure on our roadways, I believe Amtrak could be a great piece of the puzzle in giving people options as they travel from place to place."
Rep. Howell is chairman of the House Transportation Committee.