Eleven communities in AL, LA, MS to receive grants for station area planning, construction
At a meeting Dec. 19 in Bay St. Louis, MS, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) announces the allocations for more than $2 million in funding through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to 11 communities in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, that are planning for restored and improved passenger rail service.
A total of 11 grants will be awarded to the following communities for station-area planning and construction projects that will ensure safe access and better connectivity to and from the station, improved convenience for riders, updated facilities, and leveraged economic opportunity that comes with station redevelopment:
· City of Anniston
· City of Birmingham
· City of Mobile
· City of Tuscaloosa
· Baton Rouge
· City of Gonzales
· St. John Parish
· City of Bay St. Louis
· City of Biloxi
· City of Gulfport
· City of Pascagoula
These communities have demonstrated a commitment to planning for intermodal and transit connections, preparing themselves to better leverage the economic opportunity presented by with enhanced and re-established passenger rail service. Funds are provided for improvements to existing stations, as well as planning for new stations.
Southern Rail Commission Chairman Greg White states, “Our Congressional delegation has led the cause of restoring rail to Gulf Coast at the federal level, leveraging the strong local demand that has been building since 2005,” says White. “We are especially grateful to Senators Cochran and Wicker of Mississippi, in particular, who played a critical role in accelerating the availability of these Federal Railroad Administration funds, building on the growing momentum to keep this large-scale project moving forward.”
The SRC worked side by side with their Congressional delegation, the FRA, host railroads, and Amtrak to pursue federal funds to restore passenger rail service in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
“Passenger rail service has been out of commission in many of these communities since Hurricane Katrina destroyed rail infrastructure across the Gulf Coast in 2005,” says Knox Ross Secretary-Treasurer of SRC. “These awards demonstrate the strong commitment by both Senators Cochran and Wicker and our Mississippi cities to seeing Amtrak return to the Gulf Coast. The SRC is pleased to partner with these cities to bring back Amtrak to the Gulf Coast.”
“These grants will allow our Louisiana communities to locally plan their stations for the re-establishment of passenger rail connecting the New Orleans to Baton Rouge super-region, a project that has tremendous support from the business community and is a priority for Governor Bel Edwards”, said John Spain, Vice- Chair of SRC.
A Working Group, designated by the FAST Act and chaired by the Federal Railroad Administration, which includes members from CSX, Amtrak, the SRC, local elected officials, state DOTs, MPOs, businesses, and tribes representing interests of communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, has been evaluating the needs in order to reach an agreement on the phasing of capital construction and schedule for the restored passenger rail service.
The SRC hosted an “inspection train tour” in coordination with Amtrak in February 2016 that travelled between New Orleans, Louisiana and Jacksonville, Florida, and the train was greeted with thousands of enthusiastic supporters at every stop along the corridor. “The inspection train tour showed tremendous local support throughout the Gulf Coast – we were blown away the crowds that met us in every city along the route. The local demand is there. People want the trains to come back to their towns.”
Funds will be available in early 2017. Projects are expected to be completed within 24 months of receiving the awards.
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