NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The support for passenger rail in Tennessee is strong.
“You can work remotely, they got wifi, all that jazz,” Connor Krudys said. “I think it’d be great for Tennessee to have commuter trains to connect, what, like Johnson City, Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, some of the larger metropolitan areas.”
Krudys, a Nashville resident and bartender at Neighbors in Germantown, said he used to live in the Washington D.C. area before moving down to the Volunteer State. “I would take trains up to Philly or New York or Boston or whatever, and it was super cheap.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) said it’s an issue he’s worked on since he joined politics. “Everyone is supportive of this.”
But there’s been little movement to match.
“Amtrak wants to be in Tennessee. They want to be here,” Clemmons said. “All we have to do is take ‘yes’ for an answer, and the money’s going to come.”
But there could be some news coming on the horizon.
“The south is behind. The state has a lot to do with it and getting involved. We hope that we’ve gotten the state’s interest, and I think they’ve expressed an interest,” U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) said. “In November or December, we might know more about where the federal government thinks these routes should go.”
A new Nashville mayor could breathe some new life into the concept.
“If there is anything we can do as a local government to accelerate the likelihood of restoring passenger rail service beyond Nashville and beyond middle Tennessee, we certainly want to be a part of that,” Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell said to reporters Friday.
O’Connell has been a big supporter of public transit in the past few years.
But passenger rail has been a bit of a different beast for the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). However, the department may have its hand forced after a state advisory commission recommended bringing the mode of transportation inside state lines.
“My conversations are, they’re hemming and hawing,” Clemmons said. “They don’t want to take on CSX. They see CSX as a political liability.”
It’s a notion Cohen also continued to push just last week to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
“I’d like to see Memphis to Nashville. Our state recommended something – Nashville to Atlanta, Chattanooga to Atlanta,” Cohen said. “You could get Memphis to Nashville in there and get all that together.”
Both Cohen and Clemmons acknowledged it would cost a fair chunk of change, but it could relieve many of both the state and country’s big issues.
“It’s a quality of life issue, it’s an environmental issue,” Clemmons said. “It checks a lot of boxes.”
Cohen added to that by mentioning economic, tourism and traffic benefits, too.
But for now, Tennesseans have to wait, even if it is fun to think about.
“I’d probably go to Memphis or Knoxville for music or to visit friends or something like that,” Krudys said.