FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION'S GULF COAST PASSENGER RAIL WORKING GROUP
The recently passed federal Surface Transportation Bill - Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act (or FAST Act) of 2015 included passenger rail authorization along with highway and transit needs for the first time in US history. Section 11304 of that Act mandated that the Federal Railroad Administration convene a working group to evaluate the restoration of intercity rail passenger service between New Orleans and Orlando.
The Working Group’s mission is to plan for and recommend capital and operating solutions to restore improved passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast within nine months from the FAST Act’s passage—with a report to be completed by September 2016. The Group is chaired by the FRA, and includes members from CSX, Amtrak, the SRC, and local elected officials, state DOTs, MPOs, businesses, and tribes representing interests of communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
The Working Group is using an Amtrak feasibility study (here) that was completed in December 2015. This study found the estimated annual operating assistance for long-distance trains from New Orleans to Orlando is $5.48 million and adding a state-supported route from New Orleans to Mobile would cost an additional $4 million per year.
The goal of the SRC and our partners is to make significant progress in the coming months that will ensure restoration of service in the next 24 months. When FRA report is completed in September, it will posted on this page. Below is the progress of the Working Group to date:
· Working Group coordinated FRA and US DOTD on passenger rail related issues in the FAST Act and the FY2017 THUD bill.
· Working Group coordinated with FRA to engage CSX to complete corridor capacity study.
· The SRC has a $2.45 million unused rail research earmark for the federally designated high speed Gulf Coast corridor and issued a call in April for applications for these funds to support rail station area development in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
· Work is underway in collaboration with the FRA, the States of LA, MS, AL, and FL, the Gulf Coast Congressional leadership, CSX, Amtrak and the SRC to evaluate needs in order to reach agreement on phasing capital construction and schedule for the restored passenger rail service.
SRC has been collecting Resolutions of Support from municipalities along the Gulf Coast rail corridor.
Submitted RESOLUTIONS OF SUPPORT INCLUDE:
- City of Atmore
- City of Madison
- City of Mobile
- Escambia County
- Mobile MPO
- Porch Creek Band of Indians
- South Alabama Regional Planning Commission
- City of Bay St. Louis
- City of Biloxi
- City of Diamondhead
- City of D’Iberville
- City of Gautier
- City of Gulfport
- City of Long Beach
- City of McComb
- City of Ocean Springs
- City of Pascagoula
- City of Pass Christian
- Gulf Regional Planning Commission
- Hancock Chamber of Commerce
- Hancock County Board of Supervisors
- Jackson County
- MS Gulf Coast MPO
- MS Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce
- MS Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau
- Apalachee Regional Planning Council
- Bay County TPO
- City of Chipley
- City of Crestview
- City of Jacksonville
- City of Orlando
- City of Pensacola
- City of Tallahassee
- DeFuniak Springs
- Escambia County
- FL-AL TPO
- Lake City
- Leon County
- Live Oak
- Madison County
- Northwest Florida Regional TPO
- Okaloosa Walton TPO
- Panama City
- Suwanee County
- Suwanee Valley Transit Authority
- Walton County
- West Florida Regional Planning Commission
- Bossier City
- City of Gonzales
- City of New Orleans
- City of Ruston
- New Orleans Regional Planning Commission
- St. Charles Parish
- City of Hazlehurst
Southern Rail Commission
Rep. Doug Broxson, Florida House District 3– letter of support
Congresswoman Gwen Graham, 2nd Congressional District of Florida – letter of support
Mayor Lenny Curry – City of Jacksonville, FL – letter of support
Suwannee Valley Transit Authority – letter of support
JOINT STATEMENT BY FRA AND GULF COAST WORKING GROUP - issued 9/2/16
Over the last six months, the Gulf Coast Working Group has worked to outline a path that restores passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast. Support to achieve this goal has continued to only grow deeper and stronger. While we have made substantial progress already during our monthly meetings and numerous teleconferences, work remains to be done to determine the exact infrastructure necessary to support daily passenger service along the Gulf. The Working Group is committed to producing a report that provides the most accurate and useful information so we can get passenger trains back on the tracks along the Gulf Coast.
Letters updating Congress on the status of the report were sent on 9/2 to Senator Wicker, Senator Nelson, Senator Thune, Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Shuster
FRA sent a second update status letter to Congress on December 14th to Senator Wicker.