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Interior view of a passenger train.

On Track for Progress: Memphis to Nashville Passenger Railway

Exciting news for Tennessee residents has been announced! An article on the front page of the Commercial Appeal recently reported that a Memphis to Nashville train may be on the horizon. The article stated that US Representative Steve Cohen’s office announced on Wednesday, December 6th, that $500,000 in federal funding had been secured to analyze the project scope for a railway connecting Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Atlanta. The Federal Railroad Administration (RFA) will provide the funding through the RFA’s Corridor Identification and Development Program. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, launched in November 2021, includes a program to establish passenger rail service between major cities in Tennessee. According to Steve Cohen, this initiative will have a significant impact on the state’s economy, boost travel and tourism, and invigorate the overall transportation sector.

“Once this service is in operation, much of the country will be accessible by rail from Memphis. This is a very big deal, and I look forward to working with stakeholders in all the route’s proposed cities to continue to move this project forward.”

Steve Cohen, U.S. Representative for Tennessee’s 9th Congressional District

Economic Impact 

The proposed introduction of a Memphis to Nashville train presents a significant opportunity to boost economic growth along the route. Based on historical trends, infrastructure projects of this nature have been associated with several benefits, including: 

  • Job creation 
  • Increased property values 
  • Development of businesses in proximity to railway stations 
  • Escalated tourism 
  • Decrease in traffic congestion. 

The new railway system is expected to improve accessibility between Memphis and major cities in Tennessee, such as Nashville and Chattanooga, and Atlanta, Georgia, as it is near Chattanooga. This will enable visitors to witness each city’s unique attractions and diverse cultural richness. Moreover, the railway system will provide a faster and more convenient mode of transportation for commuters, thus reducing the burden of traffic congestion on the highways and promoting a cleaner and greener environment. 

Does the Funding Guarantee a Passenger Railway is Coming to Tennessee? 

It’s important to note that the recent funding announcement does not guarantee establishing a passenger rail network in Tennessee. However, this funding marks the beginning of a multi-year process that could eventually lead to developing a passenger railway system in the state. These funds are the first step in the long process of bringing a railway to Tennessee, and all four cities need to be involved as well as federal support. This funding will go to pre-development planning. In a letter of support from former city Mayor, Jim Strickland wrote: 

“We anticipate this project to have numerous benefits to our community, including linking our nation’s sunbelt and coast with leading air, land, and sea transportation hubs; creating economic growth and mobility; driving higher workforce participation and equity; advancing our ability to keep our international climate commitments; and create opportunities for tourism and leisure travel for residents across our country.” 

Jim Strickland, Former Mayor of Memphis, TN

In December 2022, the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) expressed interest in a passenger railway by submitting a letter to the RFA. They also stated that a comprehensive study would be conducted by July 2023. The study identified Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville as potential hubs for the railway system, intending to connect all four cities in a loop. This proposed loop is now being referred to as the Sunbelt-Atlantic connector. While there is still a long way to go, this funding helps position Tennessee as a strong contender for securing a passenger railway network in the future. 

As the possibility of a passenger railway connecting the Sunbelt-Atlantic looms on the horizon, it’s essential to recognize the potential benefits for the region. Improved connectivity, economic growth, sustainability, and enhanced quality of life are all within reach. While challenges exist, history has shown that strategic planning, collaboration, and a commitment to progress can lead to successful implementation. The prospect of this passenger railway is an exciting step toward a more connected and prosperous future for Tennessee. 

We at NARVRE are always excited to see new railways being built and new jobs in the railway being created. The prospect of a Memphis to Nashville train will bring jobs, and open our nation to more passenger railway opportunities. Our mission statement is to PROTECT, PRESERVE, and PROMOTE the railway benefits of those affiliated with railway service. If you have worked for the railroad for more than five years or are currently employed there, you are eligible to join NARVRE and receive all the benefits that we offer. You can find your local unit on Facebook or through a local affiliate at your current or previous job site. We hold monthly meetings to discuss any potential issues with benefits and to find ways to continue supporting those who have dedicated their careers to serving the railroad. 

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