Board of Directors Helps Amtrak Move Forward with Gulf Coast Passenger Plan | Alabama News
MOBILE, Alabama (AP) – A government agency dismissed freight railroads objections on Friday and let Amtrak continue procedural work to resume passenger train service between New Orleans and Mobile.
The Surface Transportation Board has dismissed objections from CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway and let Amtrak continue its attempt to access freight lines for passenger trains, which it hopes to begin operating on the north Gulf Coast in January. .
The area has been without passenger service since Hurricane Katrina severely damaged tracks and equipment in 2005. Prior to that, passenger trains ran between New Orleans and Mobile three times a week.
While Louisiana and Mississippi supported a recovery, in part in hopes of increasing tourism, Alabama withheld funding over concerns that Amtrak trains would interfere with freight service at the Port of Mobile. The board said the lack of unanimous support from the state showed the need for a hearing to examine the issues surrounding passenger service.
The Southern Rail Commission, which supports the new service, said in a statement it was “especially pleased” that the board did not find it necessary to conduct an environmental review and set a schedule for hearings “aggressive” to move the project forward.
“Our communities are ready for daily return rail service,” said Knox Ross, commissioner.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi praised the decision in a statement.
“Implementing a twice-daily service between New Orleans and Mobile will increase access to employment, boost tourism, provide a safe alternative to highway travel and reduce traffic congestion,” a- he declared. “It will also continue to grow the coastal economy as it emerges from the pandemic, thereby improving the overall quality of life in Mississippi. “
CSX said it is still evaluating the decision but plans to meet the timeline set out in the board’s decision. Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.
Amtrak said a congressional-led task force determined in 2017 that rail service could resume with an initial $ 5.4 million in capital improvements, followed by $ 95 million in subsequent improvements after the resumption of service. CSX estimated the cost of the necessary improvements to passenger service at $ 2 billion, according to Amtrak.
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