CHARLESTON -- The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce said Tuesday it wants the Legislature to fund a study on a regional rail system.
"The Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizes that the accessibility of diverse types of transportation is essential to growth in the economy," the group said in a statement. "The Chamber also advocates for a regional approach to economic development, recognizing that our competition for jobs is not our in-state neighboring city or county, but other nearby regions such as the Cleveland MSA or Metro-Louisville.
The Chamber cited the "significant existing rail infrastructure in West Virginia."
"Would it be possible to connect geographic areas such as Charleston and Huntington and areas in between?" the Chamber said. "What would the cost be to develop such a regional rail system? Would the rail lead to a more unified economy and community between Charleston/Huntington?"
The Chamber says those answers support such a rail system.
"No quantitative or qualitative study has been conducted to provide lawmakers or private business with the necessary information by which such an important decision could be made," it said. "It is for these reasons that the Charleston Regional Chamber of Commerce supports the passage of a legislative appropriation to the WV Port Authority to conduct a feasibility study on regional rail throughout the state of West Virginia."
It says the study should focus specifically on Huntington to Charleston, Morgantown to Clarksburg, Bluefield to Princeton and Beckley, and the Northern and Eastern Panhandles.
The deliverables of the study should include:
* A market analysis,
* Economic impact,
* Terminal site recommendations,
* Financing strategies, and
* Sustainability of operation strategies.