BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Bay St. Louis is getting pumped up about Amtrak. Now that it’s looking like the service between New Orleans and Mobile is a real possibility, leaders in the city are looking for ways to capitalize on the new amenity.
It’s been three years since Amtrak came through Bay St. Louis to promote a renewed service on the Coast. And people like Nikki Moon are getting excited again.
“All everybody is saying is ‘We’re ready. Let’s bring ‘em in. Come on’,” she said.
Moon, owner of Bay Town Inn and president of the Hancock County Chamber board, simply says it’s time.
“If you think about the past 14 years what we have done in this community and how we have rebuilt it and how stronger we are today, all we need is this train. And it’s just like, it’s blowing it out of the park at that point,” she explained.
In many ways, Amtrak is an old-school approach to taking advantage of new opportunities.
“The train built our visitor economy back in the early 1900s,” said Tish Williams, Hancock County Chamber of Commerce executive director. “So, just think about what it will do to rebuild our second home market and attract new markets to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
The Southern Rail Commission says the federal support is in place, and now the legislature needs to bring in the state match to make upgrades. It could happen in as little as two years.
As far as work needed at the historic depot, there will be some new amenities as well as some additions that will make it more ADA compliant, but officials say this depot is as ready as any along the route.
Moon said that $100,000 in federal, county and city money is in place to make it all happen.
She also said Amtrak plans to have two trains on the route, which would make four stops in the Bay each day, seven days a week.
That could bring to life the neighboring business district and beyond. New Orleans artist Amanda Talley has a simple work space here.
“I have a studio in New Orleans, a gallery on Magazine Street,” she said. “This is just where I come to get some quiet and work.”
But being across the street from a busy depot could lead her to create another gallery.
And it could lead to bigger changes for others.
“I think more people in the area would definitely change this depot commercial development,” she said. “I know there are plans for a lot more commercial development in this area. It’s just not here yet.”