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WV Senate passes bill for daily Amtrak service

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The West Virginia Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to promote daily service for the Amtrak Cardinal passenger train.

Legislation to promote daily service for the Amtrak Cardinal passenger train passed the Senate Tuesday on a 32-1 vote (HB 2856).

The bill, which was passed without discussion Tuesday, will be headed to the governor once the House of Delegates concurs in a title amendment to the bill. It passed the House on March 22 on a 95-5 vote, with proponents arguing that expanding the current three-day-a-week schedule will benefit tourism and economic development in the eight West Virginia cities and towns on the Cardinal route.

Though not a governor’s bill, the bill has the support of the Justice administration. Earlier in the session, Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher said of the legislation, “I couldn’t be more solidly behind it. It’s integral to tourism to have that train operating daily.”

Under the bill, the state Tourism commissioner is authorized to enter into compact agreements with other states served by the Cardinal, and with the National Railroad Passenger Corp., the company that operates Amtrak, to improve the quality and frequency of Cardinal service.

It also authorizes the commissioner to set up a special revenue account where funds could be deposited to promote daily Cardinal service, although the bill provides no state funding for the account.

The Cardinal operates between Chicago and New York City, with eastbound and westbound trains crossing through south-central West Virginia on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, on a route that passes through the New River Gorge, and includes station stops in Huntington, Charleston, Hinton, White Sulphur Springs, and Prince, which serves the nearby Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties.

On Tuesday, Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, was the lone opposition vote, while Sen. Bob Beach, D-Monongalia, was absent.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1220 or follow @philkabler on Twitter.

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