Amtrak announces when passenger rail service will begin on Gulf Coast

Amtraks return to south Mississippi is now questionable.
Amtraks return to south Mississippi is now questionable.(WLOX)
Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 1:50 PM CST
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BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - After last week’s announcement that the passenger rail service would be returning next year to the Gulf Coast, Amtrak is narrowing that timeframe down a bit.

On Friday, Amtrak announced that it hopes to start running the trains in January 2022.

During the quarterly meeting of the Southern Rail Commission on Friday, Amtrak Vice President of Stations and Accessibility Dr. David Handera made the announcement.

“Amtrak recently dispatched a full team to assess the remaining work underway on stations along the Mobile to New Orleans route to ensure they are ready for passenger rail service to start in 2022,” said Dr. Handera. “Amtrak will work with the cities on a phased approach to initially modify the existing platforms and complete all needed repairs in the path of travel.”

According to Handera, Amtrak’s intent is to pay for these repairs, which are subject to FRA approval, and also to invest in constructing new accessible, well-lit, ADA complaint platforms in phase two.

“We are working with FRA on assembling funding sources for short-term and long-term repairs, and will work collaboratively with the cities to redirect current grant funds towards other station upgrades that improve the path of travel to the station, such as accessible parking, lighting, and other depot amenities,” said Handera.

With funding secured for the first three years of operations for the New Orleans to Mobile service, Amtrak said they intend to start service in January 2022.

The SRC has secured over $66 million in federal grants and local matching funds for improvements to railroad infrastructure that will benefit passenger and freight service along the route.

The SRC awarded grants to Mobile, Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Bay St. Louis for planning and improvements to rail stations along the Mobile to New Orleans route. Under Amtrak’s new commitment, Amtrak would repair existing platforms in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Mobile in phase one and install new platforms in phase two.

In Pascagoula, Amtrak would bring in a temporary platform in phase one and install a new platform in phase two. In Mobile, the city plans to locate the rail station at the new Mobile airport at Brookley Field, but is awaiting the final results of an alternatives analysis before determining the final station location.

Amtrak officials stated, “We cannot commit to investment in additional locations today in Mobile, but will work closely with Mobile officials on their plans which would follow Amtrak’s normal course of planning for new station development.”

Amtrak representatives say of all the Gulf Coast stops, Pascagoula needs the most infrastructure improvements before passenger service returns in January 2022.

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