Connecting the entire Gulf Coast with comprehensive passenger rail
Restoring and improving passenger rail from New Orleans, Louisiana to Orlando, Florida across Gulf Coast States disrupted by Hurricane Katrina a decade ago
The Southern Rail Commission’s vision is to create a strong, multi-modal transportation network connecting the entire Gulf South with passenger rail service. Since Hurricane Katrina, all modes of transportation crossing the Gulf Coast have been reestablished except for passenger rail.
- The Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (HR 749), which was unanimously approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee includes a provision (Section 306) to establish a FRA Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group that will evaluate the restoration of intercity passenger rail service in the Gulf Coast region between New Orleans and Orlando. The provision includes SRC as a member of the Working Group.
- In the next few months, SRC will be working with the FRA to assess the feasibility, economic impact and intermodal needs to support restored and improved passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Orlando and destinations in between (Option A from the Amtrak report).
- SRC and FRA jointly hosted the Southeast Regional Convening in New Orleans in September 2014 for the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida to support better rail coordination and planning.
- SRC created an alliance of elected officials, as well as business and civic leaders, that has strengthened regional planning and economic integration throughout these states as future passenger rail service is planned.
- This alliance has spurred cities along the Gulf Coast to plan for their intermodal and transit connections to better integrate into the rail system.
Passenger rail service would:
- Improve accessibility for the more than 2 million residents in the proposed service area between New Orleans and Orlando that includes a growing senior population
- Boost the Gulf Coast economy by connecting the growing population centers and tourist destinations, and support diverse jobs, health care, higher education, beaches, casinos and multiple military bases
- Provide a critical evacuation route for Gulf Coast cities
- Provide an alternate mode of transportation for more than 5 million people annually visiting the beaches of southern Alabama, alone, with similar numbers visiting the beaches of northwest Florida and southern Mississippi
- Support growing tourism industry which has increased revenue per available room by 27 percent in the Florida Panhandle, 20 percent along the Alabama Gulf Coast, 10 percent throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast and 51 percent in Orleans Parish
- Serve the workforce of growing industries such as oil and gas, petrochemical, aerospace, shipping and the military
- Attract additional sales tax revenue from casino patrons, visitors and tourists
- Serve communities with very high poverty rates with limited access to transportation alternatives