Federal funding bill gives hope for Gulf Coast rail service

The signing of the federal FY2018 omnibus spending bill could finally bring passenger rail service back to Mobile.

Signed by President Donald J. Trump in March, the bill would provide millions in possible funding for rail service, including special grant funds set aside for service that was canceled. The bill includes $592.5 million in funding for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements, or CRIS, including $35.5 million set aside to restore lost passenger rail service such as the Gulf Coast route, according to a statement from the Southern Rail Commission.

Read the full story here

How you can help bring back the Coast's passenger rail service

Advocates for bringing passenger rail service back to the Coast are asking for help.

In the next few months, the Southern Rail Commission will be working on an application to secure a $20 million dollar grant and matching federal dollars. The money would be used to create Amtrak service from New Orleans to Mobile with multiple stops on the Mississippi Coast.

Tish Williams with the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce said if you support the plan, you can sign an online letter to Gov. Phil Bryant.

"The Governor wants to hear from the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast," Williams said. "He wants to know if this is important to us and if it is then he will know that he has the support to do what the state needs to do to secure the matching grant that is necessary in restoring the passenger rail service."

To read more, CLICK HERE

Here's how 'unique opportunity' could help land New Orleans a Gulf Coast Amtrak route

GULFPORT -- Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran had a parting gift for the Gulf Coast before he retires from the U.S. Senate on Sunday, one that could restore passenger trains from New Orleans to Mobile.

Tucked in the $1.3 trillion omnibus legislation passed by Congress to keep the federal government operating through September are grants to restore passenger rail service, particularly to areas like the Gulf Coast that once had trains but lost service.

"We have a unique opportunity Sen. Cochran and Sen. (Roger) Wicker put together for us," said Knox Ross, vice chairman of the Southern Rail Commission.

Click here to read more in the New Orleans Advocate.

Grant money could help passenger trains return to Gulf Coast

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) -- Grant money recently approved by Congress could help passenger trains see a comeback along the U.S. Gulf Coast between Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

The $1.3 trillion spending bill that will keep the federal government operating through September includes grant money that would aid plans to restore passenger train service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, The Sun Herald reported.

"We have a unique opportunity," said Knox Ross, vice chairman of the Southern Rail Commission.

Click here to read more from WWL.

NARP letter to Surface Transportation Board

Dear Ms. Brown:


The Rail Passengers Association, also known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is the nation’s oldest and largest organization speaking for the nearly 40 million Americans who rely on passenger rail every year. In response to the letter submitted March 2 by the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), the Association is submitting this letter to the above-referenced docket based on the significant interest of our members who travel on Amtrak, who are among the millions of fare-paying passengers who ride on routes hosted by Canadian National.

Click here to read the full text from the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

 

Southern Rail Commission Sees Big Wins in Omnibus Bill

On March 23, President Trump signed the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill that provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and for the return of Amtrak's Gulf Coast service.  The bill provides significant increases in funding for passenger rail capital and operating programs, and includes report language that is supportive of the ongoing work by SRC to support passenger rail projects across the southern coast.

“The Southern Rail Commission is grateful to Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee - as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi - for the commitment to the restoration of passenger rail service across America’s Gulf Coast.  These programs can provide the resources that will get passenger rail up and going,” said SRC Mississippi Commissioner, Vice Chairman Knox Ross.

The final bill represents the largest single year increase for the full Amtrak budget as well as the national system. It includes the following funding:

  • CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements): $592,547,000 including $35,547,000 set aside to restore lost passenger rail service such as the Gulf Coast route.

o   This represents an increase of over $68 million from FY17

o   Includes $250 million for PTC (Positive Train Control)

  • REG (Restoration and Enhancement Grants): $20 million which provides operating support for new passenger rail service

o   This represents an increase from $5 million in FY17

  • Amtrak:

o   National Network (includes the Crescent and City of New Orleans that serve SRC states)- $1.292 billion

o   Includes $50m for PTC

o   Increase over FY17 level of $1.1b

Previously the SRC has championed a report by a FRA Working group which facilitated an Amtrak feasibility study (here) that was completed in December 2015. This study found the estimated annual operating assistance for long-distance trains from New Orleans to Orlando is $5.48 million and adding a state-supported route from New Orleans to Mobile would cost an additional $4 million per year.

Work is underway in collaboration with the FRA, the States of LA, MS, AL, and FL, the Gulf Coast Congressional leadership, CSX, Amtrak and the SRC to identify needs and specific funding for phasing capital construction and operations for the restored passenger rail service.   Some of this funding could be acquired through the newly appropriated federal rail programs, CRISI and REG. The SRC has also received significant interest and initial commitments from private sector partners across the gulf coast interested in contributing to the rail project. 

Amtrak Gulf Coast service to Pensacola back on track

Buried in the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that kept the government open through September and was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday is a bit of hope for those wanting to see passenger rail service return to the Gulf Coast — including to Pensacola.

The law contains $20 million for a grant program aimed at initiating, restoring or enhancing passenger rail service, according to Bryan Gulley, a Senate Commerce Committee spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

"The program, which Florida Sen. Bill Nelson helped establish in 2015, is competitive but it was created with the Gulf Coast service in mind," Gulley said in an email to the News Journal. "For example, the grant program gives priority to restoring service on routes formerly operated by Amtrak. So, if the Gulf Coast line gets approval, the grant money could be used to help restore the line."

To read more, CLICK HERE

Budget Bill Puts Gulf Coast Amtrak Service Back On Track

The $1.3 trillion omnibus bill signed by President Donald Trump provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and for the return of Amtrak service on the Gulf Coast, including Pensacola and Atmore.

The bill provides significant increases in funding for passenger rail capital and operating programs, and includes report language that is supportive of the ongoing work to support passenger rail projects across the southern coast, the SRC said Monday.

“The Southern Rail Commission is grateful to Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee – as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and  Mississippi – for the commitment to the restoration of passenger rail service across America’s Gulf Coast. These programs can provide the resources that will get passenger rail up and going,” said SRC Mississippi Commissioner, Vice Chairman Knox Ross.

Click here to read more.

Big Wins, Bigger Opportunities

This afternoon, President Trump signed the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill that provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission and for the return of Amtrak's Gulf Coast service.

Thank you Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee - as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The final bill represents the largest single year increase for the full Amtrak budget as well as the national system. It includes the following funding:

  • CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements): $592,547,000 including $35,547,000 set aside to restore lost passenger rail service just like our Gulf Coast route.
    • This represents an increase of over $68 million from FY17
    • $250 million for PTC (Positive Train Control)
    • Positive SRC report language
  • REG (Restoration and Enhancement Grants): $20 million which provides operating support for new passenger rail service
    • This represents an increase from $5 million in FY17
  • Amtrak:
    • National Network (includes the Crescent and City of New Orleans that serve our states)- $1.292 billion
    • $50m for PTC
    • Increase over FY17 level of $1.1b

Now is the time to capitalize on these opportunities!

Click here to read the SRC's full release.