Amtrak has told freight railroads it intends to resume service next year along the northern Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Mobile for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, a spokesman said Wednesday.
The plan, which was first reported by al.com, would include two round trips daily with stops in four Mississippi cities: Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula, spokesman Marc Magliari said.
Freight operators CSX Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. said they hope studies of the proposal continue, and details including schedules and the exact location of some train stops need to be worked out. But money is available and the route has been studied enough, Magliari said.
“We safely and successfully operate together elsewhere in United States, with dependable freight service coexisting with reliable and relevant Amtrak service. That’s what the Gulf Coast deserves, too,” he said.
Passenger trains last served the coastal region before Katrina badly damaged tracks and other railroad infrastructure in 2005. Freight trains resumed running in the area after repairs, but Amtrak didn’t.
The project received $33 million in federal grants for improvements along the rail line two years ago, al.com reported. Mississippi has dedicated $15 million; Louisiana, $10 million; and Amtrak, $6 million for such work, while the state of Alabama has yet to commit funding. The city of Mobile has agreed to provide as much as $3 million over three years for operations.
The Alabama State Port Authority, which operates state docks in Mobile that depend on freight service, has opposed the project, and the Mobile City Council on Tuesday delayed action on a proposal to spend $80,000 studying a new train stop near Brookley Aeroplex, where the city is moving its passenger air traffic.
An old train stop closer to downtown Mobile also could be used, and New Orleans’ existing train station would serve as the westernmost terminus.