Alabama Studies Reinstating Gulf Breeze Route

Alabama officials are eyeing a return of Amtrak service between Mobile and Birmingham via Montgomery.

A consultant is conducting a study of intercity rail service on a route that has not had it since 1995 when the Gulf Breeze was discontinued.

The study is being conducted under contract by engineering firm AECOM. Funding the study is the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

An earlier study completed in 2014 examined the potential route and estimated one-way fares at $25-$30 per person.

During a public hearing in Montgomery, AECOM planning transportation manager Brian Smart said such decisions as the type of equipment used, train speed, and route choice hinge on demand for the service.

“We’re hearing demand. The population is increasing and with that comes changes in how people want to travel and how people get to work in south Alabama,” Smart said.

He said it takes 10-15 years to go from the feasibility study phase to the inauguration of service.

Getting to the latter depends on obtaining support from state, local and federal stakeholders.

The current study is expected to be completed by spring 2019 and then submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Planners are considering making the Alabama service a part of the Amtrak Crescent, which operates between New York and New Orleans.

However, it might also connect with or be an extension of a service that doesn’t exist but has been proposed between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida.

The Gulf Breeze during its lifetime was a section of the Crescent.

“If you connect to the main Amtrak line, you have access to go anywhere in the country, 500 destinations where you don’t have to drive or fly,” said City of Montgomery Planning Director Robert Smith.

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