Gulf Coast Leaders Push For New Passenger Train Service



BILOXI, MS (AP) — A group of Gulf Coast leaders has recommended that Amtrak restore a passenger train route that goes through the Gulf Coast.

         The Gulf Coast Working Group in a report issued Monday night recommended Congress consider two routes — a New Orleans to Orlando, Florida daily round trip route and a New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama daily round trip.

         Louisiana, Mobile and Mississippi would have to come up with the money for the Mobile route.

         "This report makes clear the need to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast and provides a path to get us there," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, who helped create the working group Congress approved as part of the FAST Act in 2015. "While there's lots of work ahead, this service will not only help us meet the future transportation needs of the region but could also be a boon for tourism and the local economy."

         The Working Group used information for the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, the Southern Rail Commission, CSX (the owner of the tracks the trains would run on) and communities along the route.

         "This encouraging study shows that passenger rail service could be restored along the Coast quickly and at a reasonable cost," said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, and a supporter of the project. "Completion of this report is an important step in the process, and it brings us closer to delivering the numerous benefits of passenger rail to the entire Gulf Coast region."

         According to a release from Wicker's office, it would take about $117.6 million to restart the service. In Mississippi, it would stop in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula on the Coast. Even if the federal government comes up with the money to launch and operate the passenger service, there are many details to be worked out by Amtrak, CSX and the cities on the route, the report notes.

         Wicker has said both he and fellow Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran support the project. The route through the Coast is backed by the city officials and a large crowd of people turned out last year to see a test run of the service.

         The Coast has had several passenger routes over the decades. The last was the Sunset Limited that went from Miami to Los Angeles with stops on the Mississippi Coast. That service ended after Hurricane Katrina hit.

         – by AP/ Reporter Paul Hampton with The Sun Herald

 

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