US DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx: Better Transportation Options Connect People to Jobs

The head of the U.S. Department of Transportation said that urban planners and engineers have a chance to build transit systems that create opportunities for more people.

“We have an opportunity to make this generation of American transportation planning the most restorative in our history,” Anthony Foxx, secretary of the federal transportation department said Wednesday during his closing keynote address to the Louisiana Smart Growth Summit. The 10th annual summit was held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge.

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Proponents say passenger rail from New Orleans to Baton Rouge gaining momentum

The effort to develop a passenger rail line linking New Orleans and Baton Rouge could be gaining momentum.

The topic came up Wednesday during the 10th annual Louisiana Smart Growth Summit at the Shaw Center for the Arts in downtown Baton Rouge.

Knox Ross, secretary-treasurer of the Southern Rail Commission, an agency set up to promote rail service, said the cities that are succeeding and growing have made tremendous commitments to rail.

Read the full article here.

White to Chair Rail Commission

Greg White has been elected chairman of the Southern Rail Commission.

The SRC engages and informs public and private rail interests to support and influence southeast rail initiatives. “I am honored and humbled to assume the chairmanship of this critical organization,” White said. “The Commission has made an enormous amount of progress in recent years and I look forward to continuing our advocacy of comprehensive passenger rail as a driver of economic resilience and quality of life for communities across the Southeast United States.”

Read the full story at Andulusia Star News

Baton Rouge to New Orleans Passenger Rail Gubernatorial Briefing Book released

Commissioned by the Southern Rail Commission, the Gubernatorial Briefing Book is designed to outline the critical steps to achieving passenger rail in the Super Region corridor between Baton Rouge and New Orleans for the Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and state legislators.

The 5-step plan clearly showcases how Louisiana's state leadership can efficiently mobilize the effort to make rail a viable transportation alternative for the hundreds of thousands of commuters, tourists and industries that travel the heavily used portion of I-10 between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

The key steps include:

  • Designate funding for capital expenses and operating support
  • Plan the service
  • Negotiate an operating agreement in conjunction with the railroads
  • Conduct capital work
  • Prepare for service

PRESS COVERAGE ON the Briefing Book:

New Orleans City Business

Transportation for America blog

WVUE FOX 8 New Orleans

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant appoints four new members to Southern Rail Commission and 2016 officers instated

At the September 11th meeting of the Southern Rail Commission, four new commissioners and new officers were instated.

Ashley Edwards is the Executive Director of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission which operates The Port Bienville Shortline Railroad, Port Bienville Industrial Complex, Stennis International Airport, and the Economic Development Authority for Hancock County. Previously, Ashley served as Executive Director of Governor Phil Bryant’s Office of Recovery, where he was responsible for overseeing the closeout of Mississippi’s Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.  Ashley also served as Deputy Director of Governor Haley Barbour’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, where he was a member of the team responsible for coordinating the State of Mississippi’s long-term recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Jack Norris is President of the Gulf Coast Business Council – a regional private, non-profit corporation. The Business Council engages top business executives to be the united voice on public policy issues and projects important to the economic vitality of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  Previously, Jack served in the office of Governor Haley Barbour as Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, coordinating Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts for the Governor’s Office.  Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Jack served on the staff of former Senator Trent Lott in Washington DC.

Patrick Sullivan is President of the Mississippi Energy Institute, a private, non-profit business created to support research and energy policy to foster economic growth in Mississippi.  Prior to his work at the Mississippi Energy Institute, Patrick served both as Policy Advisor and as Executive Director of Recovery and Renewal for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour.  Serving as Policy Advisor to the Governor since 2006, he had oversight of issues pertaining to energy, transportation, environment, agriculture, natural resources, and economic development.  In July 2010, he was named Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal, which is the primary entity responsible for coordinating disaster assistance, overseeing state-level response and assistance for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the April 2011 tornado disasters, and the 2011 Mississippi River flood. 

Blake Wilson is the Mississippi Governor’s Designee. Wilson is President & CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, serving as only the third executive of the State Chamber of Commerce in over 60 years. He came to MEC in 1998 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce where he served as Executive Vice President directing membership, marketing, government affairs and grassroots legislative activities. Previously, Blake was Executive Director of Associated Builders & Contractors' in his native Delaware and prior to that, spent nearly 10 years with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. Before entering the association business, he spent nine years as a newspaper editor and reporter.

Read the full release here.

All of Louisiana's gubernatorial candidates support passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans

Louisiana gubernatorial candidates speak at the Southeast Super Region Committee Gubernatorial Forum in New Orleans, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. From left to right, are: Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-72nd Dist. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Louisiana gubernatorial candidates speak at the Southeast Super Region Committee Gubernatorial Forum in New Orleans, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. From left to right, are: Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne, Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-72nd Dist. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

All four Louisiana governor candidates would support putting passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans -- a departure from Gov. Bobby Jindal's position. 

"Nothing is more important to the super region than making sure we have interconnectedness," said state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, the Democratic candidate in the race. 

The three Republican candidates echoed Edwards sentiment during a gubernatorial forum sponsored by Greater New Orleans, Inc., the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and other business groups Friday (Sept. 3). But two candidates -- U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle -- were more tepid about their support. 

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Modest ridership projections in passenger rail study connecting Shreveport and Vicksburg

Photo by Kate Archer Kent

Photo by Kate Archer Kent

Consultants are wrapping up a year-long feasibility study exploring passenger rail service from Shreveport-Bossier to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

They presented their findings Thursday as part of two public meetings held in Bossier City and Ruston. The Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments commissioned the study. It’s one of several underway from Texas to Mississippi.

The study found estimated ridership between Shreveport and Vicksburg would be 81,500 people annually. The yearly operating cost: $9.6 million with almost all of it subsidized.

NLCOG executive director Kent Rogers says when you fold in numbers from Dallas-Fort Worth to Vicksburg, the ridership doubles, and the study takes a very different turn.

“Shreveport to Vicksburg is low, but as soon as you add in Dallas-Fort Worth to Shreveport to Vicksburg those numbers jump astronomically and that’s going to continue to grow as you build on those longer segments,” Rogers said, following a 90-minute midday presentation at Bossier Parish Community College.

Read the full article here.

Senators Wicker, Booker Unveil Railroad Reform, Amtrak Reauthorization

Bipartisan Proposal Could See Committee Vote Next Week

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., today introduced a bipartisan measure to improve passenger rail safety, reauthorize Amtrak services, and improve existing rail infrastructure. The bill, “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” could receive a vote by the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee as early as next week.

“To help the United States compete globally, we must invest in a safe and reliable passenger rail system that Americans can depend on,” Booker said. “But too often our rail system falls short due to a lack of adequate infrastructure investment. Our bipartisan bill takes important steps to improve rail safety in the wake of last month’s tragic derailment, modernize our aging passenger rail network, and maximize investments in infrastructure through improved financing and grant programs. The legislation allows Amtrak to reinvest Northeast Corridor profits back into improving Northeast Corridor infrastructure, including throughout New Jersey. This will help advance critical but long overdue initiatives like building the Gateway Project which adds a new tunnel under the Hudson River and replacing the declining Portal Bridge. Senator Wicker has been a tremendous partner in moving this important bill forward.”

The Southern Rail Commission's Chairman Knox Ross voiced support on behalf of the Commission and vowed swift action should the bill pass.

"The Southern Rail Commission expresses gratitude for Senator Wicker’s contribution in crafting a bi-partisan bill supported by a Republican Senator from the deep south along with Democrat Senator Booker from the northeast. Immediately upon passage of this bill, the Southern Rail Commission is poised and ready to work with members of the working group on implementing service along the Gulf Coast corridor. Local support for restoring passenger rail service that was wiped out during Katrina has been demonstrated by 22 mayors, along with business and civic leaders from across the Gulf States."

Read the full release at Senator Wicker's website.

SRC "Katrina Conversation" encourages local support for Gulf Coast passenger rail

Last night, the Southern Rail Commission hosted a "Katrina Conversation" on the restoration of passenger rail along the Gulf Coast. 

As a part of the ongoing Katrina+10 programming, the panel discussion featured diverse perspectives that illustrated the immense challenges we faced in the wake of the storms and how it's never been more important to bring comprehensive rail back to the Gulf Coast region. 

"There’s a widespread amount of support from your [local] governments, from your planning organizations, and from your business community to get the train service back." said Knox Ross, Mayor of Pelahatchie, Mississippi and chairman of the Southern Rail Commission. "And that’s the most important part of this — we have to have local support. Your elected representatives in Washington have to know that this is important.”

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