Process to bring passenger rail service back to the Coast takes another step forward

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 10:21 PM CDT
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BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (WLOX) - On Monday, Bay St. Louis became the first city on the Mississippi Coast to begin construction on a set of projects needed before Amtrak can begin running trains from New Orleans to Mobile with four stops in South Mississippi.

“I think this is the first boots on the ground infrastructure commitment people have seen,” said Knox Ross, Southern Rail Commission chairman.

The ground breaking ceremony marked the beginning of construction to reactivate Bay St. Louis’ Amtrak station by upgrading the train platforms.

“It’s going to be big for the city, it’s going to allow us to get people out of New Orleans and into our Coast,” said Bay St. Louis Mayor Mike Favre.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg attended the announcement. She said the passenger rail line from New Orleans to Mobile fits into a larger plan to connect more of America with public transportation.

“You all know there’s a lot of rail service that runs up the Northeast corridor where I’m from, but we think there’s so many other places around the country and the Gulf Coast is clearly one of those areas where we can have great passenger rail service,” said Trottenberg.

The platforms in Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula also still need to be brought up to standard. Amtrak is committing $2 million total to the train station upgrades across the Coast.

“We are doing the platforms that are essential to properly serving our customers all they way across the Gulf Coast,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak media relations manager.

The timeline for when you’ll be able to board a train on the Coast is still uncertain. Amtrak continues making its legal case to allow the passenger trains to operate on the CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines. The Surface Transportation Board will ultimately make the decision following a hearing.

“What we want to do here is accommodate both,” Trottenberg said. “We think we can have great passenger rail service and still accommodate all the freight traffic that’s needed, make sure we can get all the goods we need for our supply chain. We have a process here where the STB hears both sides and is now in an arbitrary process.”

According to Magliari, Amtrak would like to have the passenger trains up and running around the first of the year.

“We’ve been very public with our position that the Gulf Coast needs this service, the Gulf Coast deserves this service,” Magliari said. “This service is very possible, all we have to do is getting some working agreements with the folks that own the tracks.”

A date for the Surface Transportation Board hearing has not yet been set.

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