Posts Tagged ‘Amtrak in Louisiana’

Poll Finds Support for Baton Route Service

April 21, 2019

A poll has found strong support for the institution of intercity rail passenger service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The poll found 75 percent of respondents supported having a train as an alternative to driving while 85 percent said it was important or very important to have a rail service between the two cities, which are 80 miles apart.

The poll surveyed 1,050 registered voters in the area and had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent. It was sponsored by by the Southern Rail Commission, Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and GNO Inc.

Of those polled, 70 percent of respondents said they might use the train to travel to events at the Superdome and other New Orleans sporting events while 60 percent said they would ride it to attend Louisiana State University events in Baton Rouge.

A study has estimated that the service would cost $260 million to launch. It would operate two daily roundtrips.

Gulf Coast Revival Misses Funding Deadline

June 23, 2018

Efforts to revive Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast suffered a setback this week when the Southern Rail Commission cited lack of financial commitments from the states to be served for missing a funding deadline.

The SRC lacked the financial commitments needed to qualify for a Federal Railroad Administration Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements grant. The states of Mississippi and Alabama declined to provide funding.

The grant program was created with a push from U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and former Senator Thad Cochrane, both of Mississippi.

To win the grant funds, the SRC needed matching funds of $35.5 million from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards pledged $9.5 million but governors in Mississippi and Alabama didn’t follow suit.

In a statement, Alabama Governor Ivey said: “I am hopeful that one day we may have the luxury of providing financial support for passenger rail service, but now is not the time when we have other challenges which must take priority.”

If Alabama and Mississippi are willing to provide funding, the SRC said it could still seek the federal funding in fiscal year 2018.

“I know I speak for my fellow commissioners when I say I’m very disappointed to not take advantage of this funding for which Gulf Coast passenger rail is so perfectly suited,” said SRC Chairman John Spain.

Amtrak served the Gulf Coast with its tri-weekly Sunset Limited between Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles until the service was suspended in August 2005 in the aftermath of damage the track and station infrastructure caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Planning Continues for Louisiana Rail Route

June 23, 2017

The rejection of a proposed gasoline tax increase will not necessarily stop a proposed passenger train service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, officials say.

The 17-cent tax hike would have raised $510 million for transportation projects, but officials say the rail service was only in the planning stages.

The officials acknowledged that for the service to begin, transportation officials will need to find funding for it.

Shawn Wilson, the Louisiana secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, said federal funding might be able to cover most of the roughly $260 million cost of launching the service with public-private partnerships picking up some of the rest of the cost.

Louisiana would have to pay some costs and is responsible for coordinating the project.

Had the tax increase been approved, $30 million of it would have gone toward multimodal transportation, including rail service.

“We will continue to try and work to deliver it,” Wilson said. He acknowledged it could take longer to find the funding now. “It would be unfair to say this initiative relies solely on the state.”

Tommy Clark, commission of the Office of Multimodal Commerce, said the state has made some progress in convincing Amtrak and Kansas City Southern, which would have hosted the train, that the service would be worthwhile.

Clark said state officials tried to pitch to KCS that capital improvements to the rail line would provide benefit for freight transportation as well.

“We’re just at the baby steps of having those dialogues,” he said. “There are so many milestones that have to happen before even one train moves.”

The Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority has received a $250,000 federal grant to design a train station for the project, and the city-parish put up matching funds.

A request for proposals is expected to be issued in the next two months.

La. Governor Favors Starting Rail Service

May 3, 2017

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he favors providing Amtrak service to Ruston and Monroe and that negotiations are underway with Amtrak and the host railroads.

However, a funding source for the service has not been identified.

“All of our cities, especially Shreveport and Monroe, air service is an issue, bus service is an issue. It’s hard to get anywhere. They need another alternative,” said Southern Rail Commissioner Knox Ross.

The Commission is also involved in efforts to reinstate Amtrak service to Gulf Coast cities that were served by Amtrak’s Sunset Limited until August 2005.