Passenger rail service 'closer than ever' to Coast return

Passenger rail service 'closer than ever' to Coast return

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Leaders of the Southern Rail Commission delivered an optimistic report on Thursday about the prospect of Amtrak passenger train service returning to the Gulf Coast.

There hasn't been such service since before Hurricane Katrina.

"We are closer right now, than we've been in the last 12 years," said Todd Stennis, director of government affairs for Amtrak.

The Southern Railroad Commission is holding a series of meetings along the Gulf Coast to update the progress of passenger rail service returning.

One final hurdle is determining how much must be spent in capital improvements to the CSX rail system to accommodate passenger trains.

"I think we're close to saying this is the number. Now, I'm not sure CSX is necessarily going to agree with that," said Knox Ross, a member of the Southern Rail Commission. "We have to be very sensitive to that because it's their property and their railroad, and we're trying to respect that in every way we can."

In February of 2017, a demonstration train ran along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and was enthusiastically received.

"People want a better choice than I-10. Not everyone should be driving, not everybody wants to drive. Not a lot of young people can even afford cars with their student loans they have. They want a better choice than driving," said Amtrak spokesman, Marc Magliari.

Despite the overall optimism, leaders of the Southern Rail Commission say proposed federal cuts in Amtrak's budget, could well have a negative impact on plans to restore passenger train service along the Gulf Coast.

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