Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans-Mobile rail service’

Mobile Moving Ahead With Station Plans

April 17, 2018

Although it not a certainty that Amtrak service east of New Orleans will be restored, officials in Mobile, Alabama, are pressing ahead with plans to build a new train station.

The city received a $139,500 federal grant in 2016 to be used toward establishing the station.

Officials have discussed putting it downtown near Cooper Riverside Park, the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center and the GulfQuest maritime museum.

The city recently issues a request for qualifications for consultants to provide planning and architectural design work for the station. Applications are due by April 20.

Not everyone in Mobile is on board with the idea of restoring Amtrak service that was lost in August 2005 after Hurricane Katrina damaged the route of the Sunset Limited east of New Orleans.

Jimmy Lyons, head of the Alabama State Port Authority doubts that getting Amtrak back will benefit the city that much.

Instead, he argues that it will encourage more people to leave Mobile to visit New Orleans and Mississippi casinos rather than drawing visitors from elsewhere to Mobile.

“People aren’t going to get on a train and ride to Mobile when you have the museums, zoos and aquariums in New Orleans,” he said. “The residents of New Orleans, when they come to Alabama, they go to the beach. Taking the train isn’t a good option of going to the beach. We would lose business here. I don’t see it as a real win for Mobile.”

Lyons is also worried that a passenger train would interfere with CSX freight service to the port of Mobile.

“We are highly dependent on that CSX rail line that runs through the port and underneath the Convention Center,” Lyons said. “We run, at a minimum, seven-eight trains a day over that line. On heavy days, when we have a lot of coal traffic, we could be up to 12-15 times.”

Lyons’ point of view is at odds with that of the Southern Rail Commission, which is pressing states on the route of the train to provide funding to match federal grant money that is available in the current federal budget for restoration of intercity passenger rail service where it has been lost.

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Southern Groups Continue to Seek New Service

February 5, 2018

Work to launch Amtrak service between Atlanta and Fort Worth, Texas, is continuing, but passenger train advocates said it is taking a back seat to the long-stalled efforts to restore service to the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida.

 “The Gulf Coast is first in line — it gets priority,” said Transportation for American Chairman and former Meridian (Mississippi) Mayor John Robert Smith. “ . . . There’s a finite amount of money that you can compete for.”

Smith said it will take about two years to get service restored between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

That also assumes that federal matching funds will be available to help pay for the $23 million cost.

“It’s not like it will take two years to do the work — we’re talking about negotiations,” Smith said. “You could run trains there in six months.”

Smith expects the service between Meridian and Marshall, Texas, route will follow after the Gulf Coast restoration. Amtrak’s Texas Eagle uses the tracks between Marshall and Fort Worth.

The Texas-based I-20 Corridor Council is working with state and federal officials and Amtrak to restore passenger rail service from Meridian to Marshall with the idea of ultimately connecting Atlanta and Dallas.

Intercity rail passenger service along that route ended more than 50 years ago.

“The concept is to have all three states pushing for this passenger rail service,” said Richard Anderson, chairman of the I-20 Corridor Council. “It would benefit all three states — it would benefit the entire south.”

Smith believes the Millennial Generation will ultimately be responsible for the resurgence of passenger trains, even in the South.

“They aren’t as married to the automobile as my generation was,” Smith said, adding that Millennials and Baby Boomers are the two largest generations in American history. “Those two huge generations drive marketing advertising and many of the choices we make in this country.”

Capitol Costs for Gulf Coast Service Put at $177.6M

July 19, 2017

The price of restoring rail passenger service to the Gulf Coast is $177.6 million in capital improvements, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA made that assessment in a report sent to Congress this week that is the final version of the Gulf Coast Working Group’s report for reinstating Amtrak service east of New Orleans.

However, CSX, which would host the service, disputes the report, saying that a consultant’s study put required capital improvements at $2.2 billion.

That prompted the the Southern Rail Commission to say that CSX has, “demonstrated a commitment to obfuscation and deceit, which culminated the sentiments they expressed in (the Working Group’s) May 10, 2017, meeting.”

The FRA said it considered information from Working Group participants, which included representatives of CSX, Amtrak, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Southern Rail Commission, to come up with the $117.6-million figure for capital improvements.

In its report, the FRA said it “does not endorse every recommendation” made in the report. FRA staff participated in the working group activities.

The Southern Rail Commission has received funding for some station restoration, but the report said $5.48 million of additional annual funding is necessary to operate a daily New Orleans-Orlando, Florida, extension of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.

Operating a separate service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, would add another $4 million cost.

The report did not specify the cost for positive train control installation.

The Gulf Coast has been without rail service since the Sunset Limited was suspended east of New Orleans following damage to the route inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.