Southern Rail Commission: Think smart, continue progress

Southern Rail Commission: Think smart, continue progress

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A deadly train accident has created debate and dialog about rail safety all over the country. However, one major question remains: Can the debate lead to fundamental, industry-wide change?

Safety has always been a priority, but it's not likely to redirect the industry in any big way.

There was a lot of excitement in early 2016 when Amtrak came through the Coast, with the hope of bringing passenger service back after a 10-year absence.

And many - like Ashley Edwards of the Southern Rail Commission - think Tuesday's tragic accident is a reason to think smarter; not stop progress.

"I don't think this has postponed the Amtrak opportunity at all. In many ways, I think it just shows us that we need to continue to work very diligently to find out what improvements we need to make along the Gulf Coast," Edwards said.

According to Edwards the accident may prove to be beneficial to the future of Amtrak; creating a priority for correcting safety issues.

"Amtrak could be a situation that we could leverage to find resources to address some of the things to ensure that this won't happen again," Edwards said.

Earlier in the year, the federal railroad administration awarded grants to 11 communities in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi for projects to enhance the plan. But the next step, Ashley says, is to simply energize the Gulf States to find the additional resources to make it happen.

Moving heavy rail is possible because of presidential infrastructure promises, but it would mean removing a big economic generator.

"Our freight rail is an economic development competitive advantage that we have on the Gulf Coast," said Edwards. "But there's certainly no reason that we shouldn't be able to live in harmony with that freight rail."

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