Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 15, 2014

McAuliffe puts Virginia Tourist Train on track

POCAHONTAS, Va. — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed into law a bill recreating the Virginia Tourist Train Authority for Tazewell County.

The authority — and a decades-old vision of creating a two-state tourist train between Tazewell and Mercer counties — appeared dead last year after former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell did away with a package of several dormant state-sanctioned authorities, including the two-state tourist train authority.

However, the authority was resurrected earlier this year in individual bills supported by Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Rusell, and Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell. And the legislation has now been signed into law by McAuliffe, according to Tommy Childress, a long-time member of the Tourist Train Authority.

“He has signed the bill that has recreated the Virginia Tourist Train Authority,” Childress said Wednesday. “It is going to have to be organized, and the number of people that would be on it are the same as before. There will be a state appointment, one from the town of Bluefield, one from Pocahontas and one from Tazewell County.”

Childress said local officials, including Puckett, are hoping to get the Virginia-side authority back up and running by this summer. The West Virginia Train Authority was never dissolved, and has continued to meet and operate.

“We need to get the Virginia side back up to be able to work with Mercer County again,” Childress said. “So we have to work on this thing. We have to cross the state line and get it going again.”

The concept of the two-state and two-county tourist train first gained traction several years ago when former West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, now both U.S. senators, made the two-state tourist train authority a part of their short-lived, two-state cooperation plan.

There is no current financial backer for the project, and no state or federal dollars have been earmarked for the proposed tourist train.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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