(The Center Square) — A bill calling for a study of railroading across Tennessee passed unanimously Thursday in the state Senate.
The study, to be completed by the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR), is expected to be delivered to the Legislature’s transportation committees by July 1, 2023.
Senate Bill 2343 came after Amtrak announced its planned 2023 map, which included a route from Atlanta to Nashville via Chattanooga and a route from Chicago to New Orleans via Memphis but no connection via Tennessee or between Nashville and Louisville.
Sponsoring Sen. Ken Yager, R-Kingston, said the bill was presented to him by Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis. The two work together in the TACIR council. the Accompanying invoice of the house is on the final schedule of the Schedule and House Rules Committee.
“Part of the request is to look at what at least three other states have done, particularly with Amtrak,” Yager said.
Yager said the study would focus on “major cities in each of the three major divisions.”
These major divisions are East, Central, and West Tennessee, with Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville representing these areas.
The study would include the cost of a new transport system, but it will be carried out by TACIR using existing resources.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t care if they came up with a system that teleported me from Memphis to Kingsport,” Parkinson had previously told a House transportation committee, explaining that the bill would require TACIR to “study how we can move people across the state of Tennessee, whether by rail or any other alternative means of moving people.”
The bill received support from both houses, but Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, R-Lancaster, told the committee it’s important to note the upfront costs that may be paid for through federal transportation grants as well than future costs to the state to maintain passenger rail service. .
“I can think of better ways to spend an hour of my time than driving,” Weaver said, noting that in Tennessee it’s complicated because the state has a one-rail rail system with trains passengers and goods.
“I don’t think we should ever have allowed our train system to fall apart,” Rep. Joe Towns Jr., D-Memphis, said during the committee. “…We have the highway system and we have planes, but we just forgot about the trains.”