SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Four cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast will split $1.1 million in grant money from the Federal Railroad Administration. The money is part of the ongoing efforts to restore passenger train service along the coast.
News of the grants came during a meeting of the Southern Rail Commission. The federal money will be matched by the cities.
- City of Pascagoula – $659,543 for improvements to restore the city’s historic train station. Total project budget: $1,300,744
- City of Biloxi – $252,000 for construction of passenger rail platform and transit station access. Total project budget: $497,000
- City of Gulfport – $190,000 for construction of new platform canopy, sidewalk, and disability access improvements. Total project budget: $370,277
- City of Bay St. Louis – $55,000 for canopy, trackside, and disability access improvements. Total project budget: $100,000
"Each city is investing a significant amount of capital in this process, and this helps us sell this project to Amtrak and CSX and others, that you all are serious and you want the train here," said Knox Ross, a member of the SRC.
Gulfport will be constructing a new passenger platform alongside the historic downtown depot. Mayor Billy Hewes says he's optimistic about the return of passenger rail service.
"I'm hopeful. I'm hopeful. I really think we're at a point with our development or redevelopment that I think we can sustain that. Given the enthusiasm that we saw months back when this trial train came through. There was a whole lot of excitement generated," said Hewes.
The passenger platform project in Bay St. Louis will cost about $100,000.
"It's going to be enhancements to the platform. There's some ADA issues and some aging issues with the platform here in Bay St. Louis, and of course the lighting and signage. It's going to enhance that very first approach," said Mayor Les Fillingame.
Pascagoula received the largest grant award, more than $659,000. Its depot will also be restored and made ADA compliant.
"We are very excited about the opportunity to receive these funds. To have an opportunity to revitalize our station, and we believe that we'll be able to impact the economic development of the whole area," said Pascagoula Mayor Pro Tem, Freddy Jackson.
Plans in Biloxi also call for building a passenger platform.
"We're going to have to build a new platform for our Amtrak station. It will be along Esters Blvd. It will be just a little bit east of the old platform, and of course it will provide easy access to our multi-modal station where CTA operates," said Cliff Kirkland, with the City of Biloxi.
Leaders of the SRC say recent talks in Washington went well, as they continue to lobby for the return of passenger trains.
They said Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker were instrumental in getting the federal grant money awarded.