Mayors Office: Passenger Rail Service Closer

Mobile, Ala.— January 11, 2017—The City of Mobile has received a  $125,000 grant to design a new passenger rail station in Downtown Mobile from the Southern Rail Commission    The grant will allow for the architectural design and for a Master plan to be developed.

“This is the next step towards making the Gulf Coast passenger rail service a reality,” said Mayor Stimpson. “This service will facilitate job creation, enhance tourism and reduce environmental and roadway impacts. It will not only connect cities across the Gulf Coast, but will also link Mobile to the Midwest, West Coast and across the nation. All of our citizens will benefit, but especially those with limited transportation options or physical challenges.”

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Funds put train station upgrades on track in 3 states

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Some of Alabama’s largest cities are getting federal help for projects that involve upgrading their train stations or developing new ones.

Birmingham, Mobile, Anniston and Tuscaloosa are each getting a share of $728,957 in grants for Alabama, Al.com reported (http://bit.ly/2hZbfKf ).

Also receiving grants are Baton Rouge, Gonzales and St. John Parish in Louisiana, and Biloxi, Gulfport and Pascagoula in Mississippi.

The money had been earmarked years ago, and officials with the Southern Rail Commission recently doled it out to the four cities, the news site reported.

All told, the three states are getting $2.5 million in federal money for train station-related projects.

To read more, CLICK HERE

Southern Rail Commission announces funding for Passenger Rail Stations

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:

Alabama:

·       City of Anniston

·       City of Birmingham

·       City of Mobile

·       City of Tuscaloosa

Louisiana:

·       Baton Rouge

·       City of Gonzales

·       St. John Parish

Mississippi:

·       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.

To read more, click here

Input sought on passenger rail-service restoration

Restoration of passenger rail service could be in the Gulf Coast’s future.

The FAST Act established the Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group in December 2015 to evaluate restoration of rail passenger service between New Orleans, Louisiana and Orlando.

The previously existing passenger rail service was stopped before Hurricane Katrina. Damage to the route has been repaired and freight service was restored, but passenger rail service has not been restored.

The group evaluating possible restoration of passenger rail service includes members from the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, CSX, Southern Rail Commission, West Florida Regional Planning Council, and other stakeholders along the Gulf Coast.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Destin leaders lend support to return of rail service

DESTIN — The final report on the proposal to restore passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast could be submitted to the federal government by the end of the year, a regional planner said recently.

Amtrak’s Sunset Crescent route from New Orleans to Jacksonville has been suspended since 2005, when portions of the rail infrastructure were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Rail lines destroyed by the storm had been rebuilt by 2006, but the passenger rail service – which was known for its routinely late trains – has never been re-established.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Working together to establish Live Oak as a rail stop

Officials in Suwannee County and Live Oak are petitioning Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) to make Live Oak a stop as passenger rail service is restored between New Orleans and Jacksonville. No passenger train has run on the line since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. Suwannee County Economic Development Director Dr. Alvin B. Jackson, Jr. says a stop at Live Oak, near the crossroads of I-75 and I-10, would generate between $12.25 and $12.72 million annually for Amtrak. SRC officials project 138,300 passengers would use the Live Oak station, which would cost only $5.48 million annually to run. Information is available at AllAboardLiveOak.com.

To read more, CLICK HERE

White: Commission making progress toward restoring rail

A working group established to develop a capital plan to help restore rail service is making great strides toward it, officials said this week.

Southern Rail Commission Chairman Greg White said Congress passed a Surface Transportation Bill – Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as FAST Act of 2015, to include passenger rail authorization along with highway and transit needs for the first time in U.S. history.

“The Southern Rail Commission has identified the return of passenger service to the Gulf Coast as one of our priorities, along with new service from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, new service between Meridian, Miss., and Dallas-Fort Worth, and a return of service between Birmingham and Mobile,” White said.

To read more, CLICK HERE.

SRC files motion to protect On Time Performance measures

The Southern Rail Commission has moved to defend a recent Surface Transportation Board ruling that On Time Performance, a train line’s rate of punctuality, be measured at all stations on the route.  The SRC and nine passenger advocacy organizations have motioned to intervene in an appeal of that ruling filed by freight railroad companies in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

Should the freight railroads’ appeal succeed, On Time Performance would be measured at line end points, leaving no accountability to the users of stops in between.

The Surface Transportation Board acts as an arbiter for disputes between Amtrak and the various freight rail companies. Amtrak’s own intervention on the appeal, in support of the STB rule, has been granted. Other agencies joining the SRC’s intervention include:

  *   All Aboard Indiana

  *   All Aboard Ohio

  *   All Aboard Wisconsin

  *   ELPC

  *   Friends of the Cardinal

  *   Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers, Inc.

  *   Midwest High Speed Rail Association

  *   National Association of Railroad Passengers

  *   Virginians for High Speed Rail

SRC and its partners make the case for all-station On Time Performance measurement in their motion found HERE.  A decision on the motion for intervention by the appeals court is pending. Stay tuned for more updates

Lengthened Amtrak platform could handle bicycle tourism, Anniston officials say

Plans are underway to lengthen Anniston’s Amtrak station train platform, and with that comes the potential for passengers to bring along bicycles, Anniston Mayor Vaughn Stewart said Friday.

Greg White, chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, said at a meeting of that body in Anniston on Friday that within a few weeks the federal government will announce whether Anniston will get a grant to help pay for that platform extension.

Stewart said that Amtrak suggested the city extend the platform by 400 feet so that the rail company’s Crescent line can load and unload passengers without moving the train incrementally to do so.  

Even if that extension comes to be, the city will still have to persuade Amtrak to allow passengers to bring their bicycles with them, Stewart said, but Amtrak has expressed an interest in allowing just that. Because the train service runs between New York and New Orleans, local officials envision a broad usage by bicyclists.   

To read more, CLICK HERE

Joint Statement Issued by FRA and Gulf Coast Working Group

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 were sent to Senator Wicker, Senator Thune, Senator Nelson, Rep. DeFazio and Rep. Shuster updating them on the status of the report - to read letter, CLICK HERE

ROGER WICKER: Infrastructure work stimulates state’s economic vitality

The future of our communities depends on investments that not only meet current challenges but also anticipate future ones. In traveling across the state over the past month, I have continually seen how Mississippi is looking ahead to create better transportation options, more opportunities for economic growth and a richer quality of life for everyone who calls our state home.

To read more, CLICK HERE

Southern Rail Commission applauds the selection of Charles “Wick” Moorman as the new President and CEO of Amtrak

Longtime head of Norfolk Southern tapped to lead nation’s passenger rail system

In response to the appointment of Charles W. “Wick” Moorman to the position of President of Amtrak, Greg White, Chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, released this statement:

“The Southern Rail Commission is encouraged by today’s appointment of Wick Moorman to serve as President and CEO of Amtrak. His appointment extends a long tradition of presidents with a track record of supporting a national, holistic passenger rail network that includes the booming northeast corridor, state-supported routes and critical long distance service. As the group responsible for the development and expansion of passenger rail in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, the Southern Rail Commission is also proud to see a native Mississippian take the helm of our nations passenger rail system.    

“Though his background is in freight rail as the long-time head of the Norfolk Southern Corporation where he spent nearly his entire career, he is a railroader first who clearly understands the value of providing reliable on-time performance to customers.

“Even during the recession, Moorman led massive capital investments at Norfolk Southern to improve service and expand their business. He has an impressive track record as an innovator when it comes to investing in research and new technology to find ways to move things faster and more efficiently.

“With passenger rail ridership reaching levels not seen in decades and the demand growing for new and expanded service in untapped markets, we welcome Moorman’s commitment to rail capital investments and his track record of working in good faith with Amtrak to provide quality service to riders.

“On behalf of my fellow commissioners at the Southern Rail Commission, we are eager to work with Mr. Moorman to bring new passenger rail service to the deep south and restore critical passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast, connecting millions of people in those communities — and tourists from beyond — with another valuable, efficient, affordable option for traveling to, from and along the Gulf Coast.”