Ocean Springs looking towards future of Amtrak passenger rail service

Ocean Springs looking towards future of Amtrak passenger rail service

OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - The sound of a train horn is a familiar one for people living on the Gulf Coast. Soon, passenger trains will be chugging along coastal tracks on a journey from New Orleans to Mobile, making stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula.

Amtrak is petitioning the Surface Transportation Board to allow the passenger service from New Orleans to Mobile to use freight rail infrastructure twice a day. The STB is an independent federal agency that oversees economic regulation of rail and has jurisdiction over certain passenger rail issues.

In Ocean Springs, city leaders are considering a show of support for the Amtrak service. The owner of downtown antique boutique Coastal Magpie believes the rail service will bring more growth to the city.

“I think it would be great. I think it’s needed. I think we need to have the train come through here, make multiple stops. People could get out, they could do their shopping. They could spend the day. I think it’s great,” said Coastal Magpie owner Joann Wheeler.

Even though the rail service won’t have a stop in Ocean Springs, Wheeler thinks it will still help bring more foot traffic to the growing downtown area.

“I think it would be good because it would be good for the businesses. People could come from New Orleans and stop off in Ocean Springs,” said Wheeler. “I don’t know if we have the demographics or the logistics for that, but it would be kind of neat to be able to just take a day trip and come and do some shopping and then they can just head back home.”

A passenger rail service has not been available on the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“People are going to want to take that ride,” said Wheeler. “It would be fun. I think it would be a good thing.”

In the filing, Amtrak asks for expedited consideration and an order allowing twice daily round-trips starting on or about Jan. 1, 2022. These trains would operate for the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), a federally created entity representing Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The Ocean Springs Board of Alderman is expected to discuss the letter to the Surface Transportation Board at its April 20th meeting.

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