BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - “This is huge, not only for Biloxi but for the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Biloxi public affairs manager Vincent Creel.
US Senator Roger Wicker announced Friday the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is granting $33 million to the Southern Rail Commission to help revive passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast.
“There was $60 million in improvements that needed to be made. This is the last 30 million. He already had 30 million, and now he has brought in another 30 million,” said Creel.
As for why Wicker's announcement is a big deal? It's simple.
“Economics is what we’re looking at. The biggest thing because we are a tourist-oriented city, and this brings people right in the midst of what we have to offer. Think about MGM Park. Think about the casino resorts and the big name entertainment there. We think it is going to be huge for us,” Creel said.
With thousands traveling both east and west, cities and towns across Mississippi are expected to see an economic bump. While Senator Roger Wicker was the one who made the announcement, many in the community say that without the late Senator Thad Cochran’s help, trains would not be travelling these tracks in just under two years.
“You look at this. Senator Wicker brought it across the finish line today, but it is also one of the parting gifts from Thad Cochran. He worked on this for years. In his last few years, this was one of his main driving things... was to get Amtrak for the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Creel explained.
Ashley Edwards of the Southern Rail Commission also spoke highly of Senator Wicker’s contributions in reviving passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast.
“It’s something that’s been in the works for many years. Senator Wicker has been a great supporter of this. I give him tremendous credit. It would not have happened without his leadership,” said Edwards.
Biloxi city leaders are expecting passenger rail service to begin within the next 24 months. Stops are also expected in Bay St. Louis and in Gulfport.