McFarland represents Southern Rail Commission during Alabama League of Municipalities annual meeting

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley addresses the attendees during the opening session of the 80th Annual Convention of the Alabama League of Municipalities. Photo courtesy of Alabama League of Municipalities.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley addresses the attendees during the opening session of the 80th Annual Convention of the Alabama League of Municipalities. Photo courtesy of Alabama League of Municipalities.

As a part of the Southern Rail Commission's ongoing effort to support and empower elected officials and community leaders, William McFarland, Jr. of the Southern Rail Commission joined more than 1,000 municipal officials, clerks, administrators and guests in Tuscaloosa May 16-19 for the 80th Annual Convention of the Alabama League of Municipalities. 

“It was an honor to represent the Southern Rail Commission at the annual Alabama League of Municipalities Annual Convention in Tuscaloosa.  This event brought well over 1,000 municipal elected officials, city managers, and other stakeholders together, and this venue afforded the convention Delegates with the opportunity to connect with the Southern Rail Commission and learn about our important work.”

Officials convened for a special Resolutions Committee meeting where delegates were presented with reports and policy recommendations for the League's five policy committees:

• Finance, Administration and Intergovernmental Relations
• Energy, Environment and Natural Resources
• Transportation, Public Safety and Communication
• Human Development
• Community and Economic Development

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley addressed the group as well as Southside Mayor Wall Burns — the current President of the League.

The Alabama League of Municipalities was organized in 1935 and has served since that time as the recognized voice of the cities and towns in Alabama. Representing 452 member municipalities, the League works to secure enactment of legislation enabling all cities and towns to perform their functions more efficiently and effectively; offers specialized training for both municipal officials and employees; holds conferences and meetings at which views and experiences of officials may be exchanged; and conducts continuing studies of the legislative, administrative and operational needs, problems and functions of Alabama's municipal governments. 

Click here for more information about the Alabama League of Municipalities.

McFarland, SRC featured in 78 magazine

Alabama Commissioner and Governor's designee, J. William "Billy" McFarland, Jr. and the Southern Rail Commission was featured in an article in 78 magazine — a local Tuscaloosa-based lifestyle publication. 

The article details his involvement from the early days when his father help found the Commission to when he was elected its chairman. It also includes recent promotional efforts begin made by the Commission to broaden its audience and increase awareness around the "vital work that the Commission does within the states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi and beyond."

Read the full article here. 

Bentley appoints Angelia L. Mance to Southern Rail Commission

Effective immediately, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has appointed Angelia L. Mance to the Southern Rail Commission.

Mance is a higher education specialist with more than 17 years of experience in teaching and administration for education programs and institutions. Her experience includes in-depth involvement in fundraising, development, and grant/proposal writing as well as creating and implementing online and traditional instructional and assessment programs for a wide variety of educational entities. Additionally, she excels in outreach and developing excellent internal and external relationships, policy development, and project management. 

Currently, she is the Senior Projects Development Manger for McFarland Consultants where she works in the research, writing, advocacy, and grant project development for clients throughout the state of Alabama.

For more than 8 years, she served as Campus Director of the Demopolis Higher Education Center for Alabama Southern Community College (also serving as Director of Institutional Effectiveness) and later for the University of West Alabama when they became managing partner of the center, where she also held the positions of Associate Director for the Center for Business and Economic Services and Special Projects Coordinator for the Suttles Entrepreneurial Center. She has served in national positions with Data Recognition Corporation and the National Council for Geographic Education after beginning her career as an educator at the University of North Alabama.

Additionally, Mance has worked as an independent consultant and author — writing on a variety of topics including education policy and curriculum development as well as numerous other topics, and serving as author of both a geography textbook and a book on Iraq. Her consulting experience includes National Geographic, Intergraph Corporation, the Census Bureau, Chelsea Publishing, EBSCO Publishers, and the United States Department of Education.

Ms. Mance currently serves as a member of the Tuscaloosa Area Consumer Advocacy group on behalf on the Governor’s Office on Disability, and as the West Alabama liaison for the Mississippi Grassroots Delta Caucus. 

Click here to read the full appointment.

Southern Rail Commission, Gulf Coast Passenger Rail featured in Progressive Railroading

The Southern Rail Commission was featured by Progressive Railroading in response to the Executive Committee's recent trip to meet with Sarah Feinberg — the interim administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. 

The meeting was to discuss the House's version of the Amtrak funding bill that calls for a study of the feasibility of restoring an Amtrak rail route between Orlando, Fla., and New Orleans.

To read the full article, click here. 

SRC Executive Committee meets with interim FRA Administrator

(left to right) John Robert Smith, President/CEO of Transportation for America; Greg White, Commissioner from Alabama; Sarah Feinberg, interim FRA Administrator; John Spain, Commissioner from Louisiana; Knox Ross, Commissioner from Mississippi

(left to right) John Robert Smith, President/CEO of Transportation for America; Greg White, Commissioner from Alabama; Sarah Feinberg, interim FRA Administrator; John Spain, Commissioner from Louisiana; Knox Ross, Commissioner from Mississippi

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. 

SRC hosting Alabama mayors during quarterly meeting

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.

Click here to download the complete press release.

Bipartisan Passenger Rail Reform Bill Introduced

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 

SRC applies for Federal Railroad Adminstration grant

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.

Download the complete grant application here.

Door still open for passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans

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.

Read the full article at The Advocate website.

Alabama governor announces Southern Rail Commission appointments

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.