Along Gulf Coast, Officials Make the Case for Passenger Rail’s Return

John Spain spends a lot of time on trains.

Just last month, the rail advocate took Amtrak’s Crescent line from New Orleans to Birmingham, Alabama for a meeting. But if he wanted to take the rail further east to Biloxi, Mississippi or even Jacksonville, Florida, he wouldn’t be able to.

Those communities used to be served via Amtrak’s Sunset Limited line. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, its rails were severely damaged. Eventually, they were rebuilt. But the service was never fully restored.

Now, Congress has called on stakeholders to determine whether a new proposal to bring back Amtrak service in the booming region could succeed. Officials in favor of the project argue it is critical to the economic development of the area and would connect thousands of people to jobs, education and tourist attractions.

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