Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Katrina’

Amtrak Favors Gulf Coast Service Restoration

March 4, 2017

Amtrak is in favor of restoration of service along the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans.

destinations-logo2Charles “Wick” Moorman, Amtrak’s president, recently expressed that support in a letter of the Southern Rail Commission.

The letter spoke of Amtrak’s “firm commitment to the Gulf Coast project, and our interest and support for other projects that are underway in (the) region.”

Until August 2005, Amtrak’s Sunset Limited had operated between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida, as part of its transcontinental route.

But the service was suspended in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which heavily damaged the CSX tracks used by the train and some Amtrak stations.

The tracks have been repaired, but the service has yet to resume.

“We are committed to operating both the long-distance and corridor services on the Gulf Coast route as soon as the necessary funding can be arranged, and the necessary agreements are in place to implement the service,” Moorman wrote.

The Southern Rail Commission is made up of representatives of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. It has formed a Gulf Coast Working Group to come up with a plan to restore daily Amtrak service between New Orleans and Florida.

The group is also seeking to create a second train that would originate in Alabama and terminate in New Orleans. The final report from the working group has yet to be released.

Members of the working group also include representatives of Amtrak, CSX, the Federal Railroad Administration.

In his letter, Moorman said Amtrak also “strongly supports” the Commission’s efforts to launch a Baton Rouge-New Orleans corridor and an extension of a section of the New York-New Orleans Crescent west from Meridian, Miss., to Fort Worth, Texas.

Moorman pledged to “obtain the necessary commitments from host railroads to determine the capital and operating needs of each service in order to advance all of these important projects.” The host railroads would be Kansas City Southern and Union Pacific.

The Fort Worth extension of the Crescent proposal dates to the late 1990s when Amtrak was activity courting mail and express business.

Trains magazine recently reported that an Amtrak study has found that the Fort Worth train would have enough ridership to make it worthwhile.

It is not clear, though, if Amtrak has enough rolling stock to equip all of the services being sought by the Southern Rail Commission.

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Mobile to Use Grant to Design New Station

January 12, 2017

Mobile, Alabama, has received a $125,000 grant that will be used to design a new station for the proposed expansion of Amtrak service along the Gulf of Mexico east of New Orleans.

Amtrak 4The money will be used to create a master plan for the station area as well as an architectural design for the depot.

The station is expected to be built downtown near Cooper Riverside Park in close proximity to the cruise terminal and the Mobile Convention Center.

The grant was awarded by the Southern Rail Commission, which has been pressing for the return of intercity rail passenger service on the former Sunset Limited route between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida.

The service was suspended east of New Orleans in August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina heavy damaged the CSX tracks used by the train.

The tracks have long since been repairs, but Amtrak has yet to reinstate service. The Sunset Limited continues to operate between New Orleans and Los Angeles on a tri-weekly schedule.

GOP Lawmaker Support Raises Hopes for Restoration of Amtrak Gulf Coast Service

January 7, 2017

News reports in the past week have indicated that the proposal to restore Amtrak service between New Orleans and Florida is gaining crucial support among Republican lawmakers along the route.

sunset-limitedGiven that both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans that support might prove to be important in restoring intercity rail passenger service to a route that lost it after Hurricane Katrina damaged the line in August 2005.

At the time, Amtrak’s tri-weekly Sunset Limited operated along the Gulf Coast on a route between Orlando, Florida, and Los Angeles, via the Florida cities of Jacksonville and Tallahassee, and Mobile, Alabama.

The news reports have said that some lawmakers who represent the Gulf Coast region of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi, have spoken in public in favor of restoring rail service.

Passenger rail advocates have said that federal monetary support will be needed to get the service going again.

Local and state officials along the former route of the Sunset Limited east of New Orleans have cited the increased commerce and job creation that rail service could bring.

The incoming Trump administration has spoken about pushing a plan to improve the nation’s infrastructure and restoration of Gulf Coast rail passenger service might be a part of that.

However, congressional leaders have said that an infrastructure development plan will not be among the priorities of the first 100 days of the 115th Congress, which convened this past week.