September 22, 2023 - TRA Newswire / Rail Passengers Association -

Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Mobile is now assured to return following the announcement of a $178 million dollar grant announced by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R)Mississippi

The Federal Railroad Administration authorized the $178 Million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program funding to restore Amtrak service to cities along the Gulf Coast. The funding will allow additional track upgrades to accommodate passenger trains as well as station improvements in Mobile, Alabama.

A second Louisiana intrastate rail project did not make the cut this week. The federal agency turned down a grant application of $108 million for the proposed proposed New Orleans-Baton Rouge passenger rail line,

Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker released a statement that "I am thrilled to announce this $178.4 million Federal grant to restore passenger rail service along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This is a significant milestone, representing years of dedicated efforts to reconnect our communities after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Restoring passenger rail service will create jobs, improve quality of life, and offer a convenient travel option for tourists, contributing to our region's economic growth and vitality. I appreciate the work of all who have worked tirelessly to bring this project to this point. I look forward to getting this plan across the finish line in the near future with the support of our state and local officials.”

Knox Ross of the Southern Rail Commission was also quoted by Senator Wicker’s office: “The Southern Rail Commission is excited to see the years of work by all of our partners culminate in the CRISI grant award. This does not happen without the tireless work of Senator Wicker and his staff’s leadership in establishing this grant program, and his leadership on the Commerce Committee. There are so many Federal, state, and local leaders that have played indispensable roles in today’s announcement. We look forward to starting this service very soon and doing our part to keep the Mississippi Coast as a premiere vacation and business destination.”

“We’ve been fighting to return passenger trains to the Gulf Coast since it was knocked offline by Hurricane Katrina. That 17-year journey has been filled with obstacles and frustration -- but also moments of joy, where local champions and national advocates were able to come together around the vision of a more connected Gulf Coast region,” said Rail Passengers Association President & CEO Jim Mathews, who has been championing the restoration on behalf of U.S. passengers for nine consecutive years. 

“Last year's agreement to return service was, first and foremost, a justification of the grit and dedication shown by those people and a validation of our vision,” Mathews continued. “We owe a particular debt of gratitude to Senator Roger Wicker and the Southern Rail Commission for their leadership. It is long, long past time for the people of the Gulf Coast to begin to see tangible results for all their hard work and patience."

The Gulf Coast has not been included as a part of the National Interstate Passenger Rail Network since the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina, however freight rail operations resumed and has continued in the region since the natural disaster in 2005. 

The Baton Rouge-New Orleans regional rail proposal, which was turned down by the Federal Railroad Administration, can be refiled at a later date, according to rules of the CRISI program. The $108 million dollar request would have allowed the replacement of an old wooden trestle over the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Trains are only allowed to proceed at 10mph on the trestle.

There was no announcement as of Thursday about a grant application for service along the Interstate 20 corridor from Meridian, Mississippi to Dallas-Fort Worth. 

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