By Justin Franz
The effort to restore passenger service along the Gulf Coast got a significant boost with the announcement of a $5.45 million grant from the federal government that will cover operating expenses along the route between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala. for the first two years of operation.
Passenger service east of New Orleans was suspended following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and transportation advocates have been working on getting it restored ever since. Last year, the Southern Rail Commission received a $33 million grant through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program to complete major infrastructure and capital improvements along the line. The states of Louisiana and Mississippi and the city of Mobile have all committed funds to the effort. The Southern Rail Commission was created in 1982 to promote passenger rail service in the southeast.
If everything goes according to plan, Amtrak plans on running two daily trains along the route with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula within the next few years.
“I would like to express my gratitude for continued support at the federal, state, and local levels as we work to bring passenger rail back to the Gulf Coast,” said Southern Rail Commission Chairman Wiley Blankenship. “This award brings us one step closer to realizing the many benefits that restored passenger service will have for our communities in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.”
The route east of New Orleans was previously served by the Sunset Limited.