The Executive Committee of the Southern Rail Commission met with Sarah Feinberg — the acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration — to discuss opportunities for passenger rail throughout the Southeast United States. During the meeting, they discussed the restoration of the Gulf Coast passenger rail route connecting New Orleans to Orlando as is an important project for improved connectivity and economic coordination.
To invite dialogue between the Commission and elected officials regarding passenger rail’s impact on connectivity, economic development and quality of life
The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) will host a roundtable discussion with three Alabama mayors during its first quarterly meeting of the year.
The meeting of the SRC is scheduled for March 9 at 9:00am at the West Alabama Regional Commission in Northport, Alabama. As the Governor’s designee, Alabama Commissioner J.W. McFarland, Jr. stated, “The Southern Rail Commission is extremely grateful to Governor Bentley along with Speaker Seth Hammett, Mr. Jon Barganier and Ms. Lyndsey Stewart of the Governor’s staff for their leadership in renewing the membership dues for the state of Alabama.”
The meeting will feature Mayor Walter Maddox of Tuscaloosa, Mayor Vaughn Stewart of Anniston, and Mayor William Bell of Birmingham.
“The Southern Rail Commission wants to work with local elected officials to create a strong multi-modal network across the Gulf South states,” said Knox Ross, Chairman of the Commission. “These mayors can help us understand the trends that they see in their communities and that gives us an opportunity to provide tools, resources and influence that can address the critical issues these mayors are facing.”
The roundtable discussion will include a range of topics, related to existing passenger rail service, marketing, facilities and will include service planning for the upcoming 2021 World games in Birmingham and it’s regional impact.
“The region can benefit greatly from this world-class event,” said Toby Bennington, an SRC Commissioner from Alabama. “The SRC is interested in showcasing how passenger rail can be a safe and convenient way to move people and encourage tourism to other nearby cities and towns.”
Established by an act of Congress in 1982, the SRC engages and informs public and private rail interests to support and influence rail initiatives across its member states of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders today introduced bipartisan legislation that improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, creates greater accountability and transparency, leverages private sector resources, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the Nation’s passenger rail transportation system. View the full press release here.
Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 Highlights
Reforms Amtrak to Increase Transparency, Reduce Costs, and Operate More Like a Business
- Eliminates Amtrak’s losses in food and beverage service
- Mandates Amtrak carry out a business case analysis for all major procurements
- Eliminates Amtrak’s black-box accounting and requires transparent bookkeeping aligned with core service functions
Leverages Resources and Encourages Non-Federal Participation
- Creates station development opportunities for the private sector
- Opens new revenue streams through right-of-way development
- Unlocks an underutilized federal railroad loan program
- Assists with advancing large infrastructure projects through partnerships with states
Targets Investments Where There is the Greatest Potential for Success
- Improves management of the Northeast Corridor
- Incentivizes increased Northeast Corridor investments
Empowers States to Have a Greater Role in Managing Routes
- Ensures states are equal partners, giving them a greater say in decision making to ensure passengers get the best service
- Strengthens transparency to give states and Congress greater insight into Amtrak’s accounting to identify areas for improvement
- Requires Amtrak to evaluate long-distance routes, improve services, and lower costs
Streamlines Environmental Reviews and Accelerates Project Delivery
- Sets hard deadlines to reasonably limit review times
- Requires reviews to occur concurrently rather than consecutively
- Improves coordination among federal, state, and local agencies involved in the reviews
The North Carolina Dept. of Transportation released a report detailing updates to the state's rail infrastructure, ridership and some of the programming that has been done to reach out to communities along the track.
The Southern Rail Commission is requesting $950,000 in FRA corridor planning funding for a $250,000 planning project – the Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Restoration Planning Project – to assess the feasibility of, infrastructure and intermodal needs for restoring suspended intercity passenger rail operations along the Gulf Coast. In the alternative, the Commission is interested in participating in the Federal Railroad Administration-led planning process for multi-state passenger rail networks. However, this application will address the criteria requested for corridor planning grants.
This study will analyze bringing daily service to the region, including considering the appropriate corridor length, the number of trains per day, the number of stops, and possible express service. It will also consider infrastructure improvements that improve on time performance and safety, such as station relocations, rail grade crossing improvements and intermodal connections. And to ensure the service is high quality, this grant will be used to study equipment needed, station rehabilitation, and platform improvements to meet ADA requirements.
Despite opposition, New Orleans and Baton Rouge leaders continue to meet with the federal government to develop a passenger rail link between the two cities and allow workers easier access to the new and expanded plants along the Mississippi River.
An article by Mark Ballard for The Advocate takes a look at the history and potential ways forward.
Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley announced his appointments to the Southern Rail Commission effective August 1, 2014.
Current Commissioner, J.W. "Billy" McFarland, Jr. was named Bentley's designee for the Commission.
In this new role, McFarland will represent the Governor’s Administration at all Commission meetings and events, including business with the Federal Railroad Administration and other stakeholders in Washington, D.C. His appointment becomes effective August 1 and runs concurrently with the Governor’s term of office.
“It is a humbling honor to be given the opportunity to serve Governor Bentley as his designee. To be appointed to the same position my late father, Bill, held for many years is especially meaningful. I will work to advocate for enhanced passenger rail options that will improve public transportation, economic development and quality of life for the State of Alabama and the entire region,” McFarland said.
Additionally, Bentley reappointed Commissioners Greg White and Toby Bennington.
In addition to those re-appointments, Bentley named Larry Watts and Claire Austin as new Commissioners.
The Southern Rail Commission, an Interstate compact chartered by the United States Congress in June, 1982 (Public Law 97-213), is charged with advancing passenger rail planning, safety, and service implementation in the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
A 12-month study is finally underway to examine the feasibility of re-establishing Amtrak Passenger Rail Service from Shreveport-Bossier City to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
The study will be conducted by HNTB Corporation and will examine at the condition of existing railroad tracks between the cities, potential stops, hours of operation and the cost to operate the service.
Transportation for America — the Southern Rail Commission's strategic partner — has outlined information about the genesis of the SRC and its vision for the future. Included in the presentation was a summary of recent rail-related legislation and how state elected officials voted in regards to those bills. It also includes a case study of Meridian, Mississippi explaining how rail can be a tool for civic revitalization and economic development.
In our ever-changing world, rail will become an increasingly important mode of transportation for the 75% of urban city residents. In their new report — Future of Rail 2050 — global design firm, Arup, offers their perspective on how rail technology will change in the next half century.
A new train service between Miami and Orlando may become a model for the rest of the country
According to an article in The Atlantic, it has been 30 years since a private intercity passenger rail has operated in the United States — and it has been even longer since a new private service was introduced.
Beginning in 2016, All Aboard Florida will run 32 departures a day between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, with service extending to Orlando.
In South Florida, around the three initial stations, the company will develop 4.2 million square feet of real estate. In Orlando, the terminus will be located at the airport and connect to a new commuter rail line at a sparkling, state-funded $215 million transportation hub.
On Monday, April 28, the Southern Rail Commission submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) for $1,016,000 in TIGER funding. The funding would support a $1,270,000 planning project to assess the feasibility of and intermodal needs for restoring suspended intercity passenger rail operations to a daily service level along the Gulf Coast. This application was one of approximately 950 applications submitted to USDOT this round (no breakdown on planning versus capital applications are yet available). The application included 30 letters of support from elected leaders and stakeholders across the region Over the next month, we will work on bringing in additional support for the project and non-federal match.