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TDOT urged to get on board Nashville-to-Memphis passenger train

A state advisory committee urged the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to support development of passenger rail service between Nashville and Memphis, using existing tracks that run through Kingston Springs.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) recommends that TDOT submit data and documentation for two proposed passenger rail routes in the state: Nashville to Memphis, as well as one that would link Nashville to Chattanooga, and then go on to Atlanta.

This would support the joint applications that local governments already have made to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor ID program for these two routes.

The Nashville-Chattanooga-Atlanta route should be the top priority, because it likely would draw significant ridership, according to TACIR’s June 28 report.

Passenger rail would allow travelers to avoid chronic traffic congestion in Chattanooga and Atlanta, and enable Nashville residents to connect with Amtrak’s Atlanta hub and catch trains that run everywhere from New York to New Orleans.

Traffic congestion also will become a growing problem on Interstate 40 between Nashville and Memphis, according to TDOT.

Passenger rail service between Tennessee’s two largest cities could ease congestion by getting more people off the road. It also would provide Nashville and other stops along the route a link to Amtrak service out of Memphis to Chicago and New Orleans.

There likely wouldn’t be many stops along the Nashville-to-Memphis route, so don’t expect the train to stop in Kingston Springs.

This would be an intercity passenger train, designed to link distant cities, not a commuter train giving suburban residents a ride into work. Tennessee’s only commuter train is the WeGo star, which runs from Lebanon to Nashville. It had 92,100 riders in 2022.

Amtrak’s City of New Orleans train, which runs from New Orleans to Chicago, has only

two stops in Tennessee: Memphis and Newburn-Dyersburg.

Dickson is the biggest city on the proposed Nashville-to-Memphis train route, so it’s possible that could be a train stop for this new service. That’s close enough to make this train an attractive alternative for Kingston Springs residents who want to travel to Memphis and points beyond.

Murfreesboro, Shelbyville and Tullahoma have been suggested as possible stops on the Nashville-to-Chattanooga route.

Other lower-priority routes also are being considered. Those include Chattanooga to Knoxville to Bristol; Memphis to Carbondale, Ill., (and then on to Chicago); and Nashville to Louisville, Ky.

Development of any of these routes is years away and would require a lot of money from the state for capital investment and ongoing operating costs. Federal grants are available for engineering studies and technical analysis needed to determine what these costs would be.

The Nashville to Memphis passenger train would run on 234 miles of track owned by CSX. Infrastructure improvements would be needed to allow both passenger trains and existing freight traffic to use the same track. But these costs might be lower than on the other proposed routes because freight traffic is less and there are fewer geographic barriers on this route, according to the TACIR report.



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