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With Amtrak service slated to come to Roanoke, Va., in 2017, a group has formed in hopes of extending passenger rail to Virginia's New River Valley west of the city. Known as "New River Valley Rail 2020, Putting Passengers on Track," the group comprises senior officials from the counties of Montgomery and Pulaski, as well as from the towns of Blacksburg, Chrstiansburg and Pulaski. Leaders from Radford University and Virginia Tech also serve on the planning committee."The New River Valley, particularly the areas around our universities, has experienced strong growth over the last several decades," said Ray Smoot, co-chair of the steering committee and retired chief executive of the Virginia Tech Foundation. "We believe that, given the strong demand for service in Lynchburg, which has been used heavily by riders from Roanoke and points west, we can demonstrate enough demand right here to justify extending service to our region."Partnering with the New River Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, the group has launched a market demand study to gauge the region's interest in passenger rail. The survey will collect information about travel habits of regional residents, visitors and university students.Study results also will help regional partners determine the best locations for potential stations, group officials said.
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