White: We’re still working on rail

Published 1:46 am Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Southern Rail Commission remains positive that passenger train service along the Gulf Coast will come to fruition.

Chairman of the Board Greg White said Monday that there is daily activity on the effort and that the Gulf Coast Working Group, which was established by the Federal Railroad Administration has met approximately every two weeks, and is progressing toward the delivery of a report that is mandated by Congress.

“I serve on this group, along with four or five other Alabamians, and representatives of Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida, the FRA, Amtrak and CSX,” he said. “Our next meeting will be in Atmore.”

White said the SRC has continued to be engaged with Congress on pushing funding opportunities.

“Legislation passed out of committee last week that will provide great funding opportunity for restoration of service,” he said. “We are now pushing for this to pass the House and Senate.”

In February, officials from Amtrak, CSX and the SRC inspected the lines to see what improvements needed to be made to ensure the safety of the passenger trains on the line.

The goal is to reinstate passenger rail service from New Orleans to Jacksonville and to Orlando; from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and then from Mobile to Birmingham.

The estimated funding shortfall is some $15 million for the service from New Orleans to Baton Rouge to Orlando and then a daily service from New Orleans to Mobile.

“The experience has been that Amtrak has to have commitments for that funding,” White said in February. “They can’t pay for it out of their operating budget. They look to states and businesses to make up the shortfall. The casino industry would love to have the traffic from this. There’s also a possibility of turning the train to Atmore.”

The Gulf Coast has been without passenger rail service since Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.