November 13, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

Texas Rail Advocates has signed on to a letter of support for the North Louisiana Passenger Rail Plan. The application is being submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LADOTD) for funding to start planning for trains to run from Dallas through East Texas and Northern Louisiana toward Atlanta. 

This follows a meeting earlier this month in Monroe, Louisiana of the Southern Rail Commission where stakeholders gathered to work out the next steps in bringing back passenger rail service. Attendees ranged from U.S. Senators and elected officials from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to the head of the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, Canadian Pacific Railroad and state DOT representatives including TxDOT. 

The grant application is for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program funding which was made available in 2021 as part of $36 billion available for passenger and freight rail projects across the country during a five year period under the Infrastructure bill passed by Congress. 

The letter submitted to USDOT chief Pete Buttigieg states that "rail service is essential to Louisiana’s economy, and Louisiana’s rail system plays an essential role in linking Louisiana freight shippers and passenger train travelers to markets throughout North America. The availability of rail transport not only provides cost and logistical advantages to Louisiana companies that enable the state to compete effectively in the global marketplace, but it also offers expanded access and increased economic development and benefits for both urban and rural areas that are presently underserved due to limited available transportation options."

The proposed study will detail project plans to establish intercity passenger rail service on the Interstate 20 (I-20) Corridor between Shreveport, Louisiana, and Vicksburg, Mississippi as part of the Dallas, Texas to Meridian, Mississippi passenger
rail corridor.

LADOTD seeks funding to prepare a study detailing passenger rail services development plans and corresponding environment analyses. The study will provide updated demographics and traffic data and identify critical infrastructure needs associated with the proposed Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor, while also addressing barriers such as capacity constraints, competition from auto, truck, and air, and lack of engagement between passenger rail carriers and freight railroads.

Planned outcomes include the development of operational scenarios, predicted ridership and farebox revenues, estimated capital and operating costs, and an evaluation of funding sources and financing options.

The letter of support from TRA pointed out that rail improvements, both freight and passenger, can significantly improve economic development and provide quantifiable positive environmental impacts. Railroads can use fuel up to four times more efficiently than trucks and using rail to move freight rather than trucks can lower greenhouse gas emissions by 75%.

The letter of support also pointed out that Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail carrier, is on average 36% more energy efficient per passenger-mile than automobiles, 46% more efficient than personal trucks, and 11% more efficient than commercial aviation. Rail is also one of the safest transportation modes and is a proven remedy for highway congestion and, by extension, highway safety.  Through inter-modal connections, the proposed passenger rail service will provide future transportation and economic benefits for populations, including disadvantaged persons, throughout north Louisiana.