Passenger Rail from Louisiana to Gulf Coast Beaches Moves Forward
Fans of rail travel who hope to someday be able to board a train in Louisiana and get off that train a few hours later on the Mississippi Gulf Coast or the beaches of Alabama and Florida are now one step closer to having that dream become a reality. Naturally, the hang-up in getting passenger rail service to return across the northern Gulf has been money.
Well, the money issue is apparently "solved". Or, at least it's moving forward because this past Friday the federal government announced a grant of $178.8 million dollars toward the project. The bulk of that money will be invested in infrastructure along the route, namely upgrading tracks, crossings, and other physical issues the train might encounter on its journey between New Orleans in Louisiana and Mobile in Alabama.
That federal grant that was announced on Friday was part of a larger, $1.4 billion dollar announcement that was made by the Federal Rail Road Administration. It should be noted that even with all these high dollar amounts flying around, none of the money offered via grants was included for building a train station in the city of Mobile. And, that is going to be the biggest hang-up in this project.
The Mobile Alabama station is being funded by CSX. Speculation is that even after all the political wrangling and posturing is done it will still take several months for a design to be agreed upon and that to be built. Of course, there are plans to reinvigorate the current Mobile train station and use that as a temporary facility while a new station is being completed.
The hope in Mobile is that the new station will be centrally located for visitors who want to see the downtown area, attend a convention in the city, or catch a cruise ship out of the Mobile cruise terminal. The new railroad station is reportedly going to be located within walking distance of all three of those locations.
Once completed Amtrak hopes to offer twice-daily service between New Orleans and Mobile. The route will include four stops along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Amtrak has not offered passenger service along the northern Gulf of Mexico routes since 2005 when many of the tracks and other infrastructure were damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
It is hoped that all of the details and upgrades that need to be finalized for service to begin will be completed by early 2024 and passenger rail service can return at that time. Although no one associated with the recent announcements and findings seemed to be committed to a specific timetable at least at this time.
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