Updated December 10, 2021 - TRA Newswire -

Canadian Pacific Railway announced that the railway is committed to establishing passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The announcement was made by James Clements, Senior VP of Strategic Planning and Technology Transformation for Canadian Pacific (CP).

Clements joined Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, state Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson, local elected officials, and business leaders representing the SoLA Super Region. Clements said that following CP's approved control of the track, as proposed in the pending Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger application, and completion of necessary infrastructure improvements in conjunction with stakeholders, one round trip a day would be possible. If state and federal funding are available for required capital improvements, increased capacity could be accommodated. The train would be operated by Amtrak.

“We look forward to the expansion and working with Amtrak to develop passenger service,” stated Clements. “This is historic. We’re excited about what this does for our customers, and what this does for our communities.”

“We are absolutely committed to working with the freight and passenger community,” said Governor Edwards. “I stand here to welcome Canadian Pacific to Louisiana and look forward to having a long, successful relationship with them. Now is the time to think big for transportation in our state.” The train would parallel the often overloaded I-10 corridor in Louisiana.

Clements was quoted by Trains Magazine that the railroad also intends to work with stakeholders to add passenger service from Meridian, Miss., west to Shreveport, La., and then on to Dallas, “once the appropriate review is done. We’re going to be cooperative, not stand-offish in that area.” Clements told Trains Magazine that since the Meridian Speedway route is a joint venture with Norfolk Southern it would also take NS cooperation to move the passenger service forward.

The East Texas Corridor Council and the North Central Texas Council of Governments have been working for over a dozen years with stakeholders across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi to build a coalition in support of an extension of the Amtrak Crescent, which runs from New York and Washington through Meridian, MS to New Orleans. Earlier analysis by Amtrak indicated that an extension of the train from Meridian to Dallas would be financially feasible. Travelers from Dallas would be able to journey direct to the East Coast without a change of trains in Chicago.

The merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern is currently under regulatory review. CP shareholders approved a $31 billion takeover of Kansas City Southern on Wednesday and Kansas City Southern shareholders approved the deal on Friday. Canadian Pacific expects to formally merge by the fourth quarter of 2022, which would create Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) and directly connect the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

After the acquisition, every Class I railroad that operates in the United States will have a presence within Louisiana and at the Port of New Orleans. CP has been the industry leader in operating Amtrak in the U.S. for the past six years, and it is the top-rated freight line working with passenger rail in the country. Clements highlighted Canadian Pacific’s longstanding leadership in passenger rail delivery, while highlighting institutional priorities of safety, accessibility, and sustainability.

Erin Monroe Wesley, 2021 Chair of SoLA and Southeast Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Cox Communications, said, “According to a 2019 poll, 85% of respondents are in favor of passenger rail service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.”  She elaborated on the invitation extended by SoLA to Canadian Pacific representatives to review passenger rail priorities, leading to today’s event.

The line would run from Baton Rouge's Electric Depot on Government Street, with stops in the Bluebonnet-Essen-Perkins medical district, in Gonzales, LaPlace and at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, before terminating at Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans near the Caesars Superdome.

Passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has been studied extensively.   A poll conducted of 1,050 registered voters from Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. James, and St. John Parishes in February and March of 2019 demonstrated that 63% of regional residents are interested passengers.  Expanded passenger rail capacity will be studied and implemented as customer demand and needed line upgrades are understood.  Analyses will be performed as quickly as possible to get the infrastructure up to capacity to support a second train pair that would not interfere with existing freight service on the line.

Vast expansion of passenger rail funding is included in the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), offering $66B in total for rail and multiple relevant programs, such as Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grants.  The IIJA will supply funding for Amtrak to further its 15-year corridor vision plan, which envisions routes accessing additional communities and specifically identifies passenger rail between the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros as a service corridor.  Amtrak’s plans outline its goal to carry 20 million more passengers by 2035.

The SoLA Super Region Committee has long advocated for passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans as a priority for economic competitiveness, business and talent attraction, and disaster preparedness, and today’s commitment by Canadian Pacific Railway advances this regional effort.