T4America Blog

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Insightful, in-depth article details efforts to restore & expand passenger rail service in the deep South

A terrific in-depth article examines T4America’s partnership with a group of southern leaders pushing to restore and expand passenger rail service through the Gulf Coast states — something that mayors and other civic leaders in towns small and large are clamoring for.

Flickr photo by Kurt Haubrich /photos/kphaubrich/8417825227/</a.

Flickr photo by Kurt Haubrich /photos/kphaubrich/8417825227/

AL.com wrote a terrific, in-depth overview of the partnership between T4America and the Southern Rail Commission to restore the Gulf Coast passenger rail service lost after Hurricane Katrina and also expand other daily, reliable passenger rail service through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. The 2,500-word piece is filled with details on our joint efforts to secure funding and build a strong local coalition, and how the looming reauthorization of federal passenger rail law could support or hinder those efforts:

The eyes of passenger rail supporters will be fixed on the U.S. Senate on June 24, when its version of a passenger rail reauthorization bill surfaces. A House version, approved earlier this year, requires the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct a study into what kind of service can be restored east of New Orleans, what markets could be served, how much it costs and how it could be financed.

The House version of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 calls for a working group to evaluate restoring service between New Orleans and Orlando. A similar group is expected to be included in the Senate version.

There’s strong support to bring back the passenger service lost after Katrina, and scores of local communities throughout the three states also see the economic development possibilities presented by restored or expanded service:

Bob Campbell, mayor of DeFuniak Springs, Fla. – about a two-hour drive east from Mobile, or 75 minutes south of Dothan – wants his city to benefit as well. He said his community’s downtown revival would be enhanced with the presence of passenger rail.

Campbell said there would be interest from Louisiana residents who want easy access to a Florida beach. Conversely, he said that Florida panhandle residents would utilize the train for trips to the casinos in Mississippi.

A train depot, which currently serves as a museum, could be restored into a train station with little cost, Campbell said.

“It wouldn’t take much at all to bring it up-to-date,” he said.

Our board chair John Robert Smith recently toured two northeastern Amtrak services with a group from the Southern Rail Commission to learn a few lessons about how those lines have spurred growth and development in the communities they connect. This in-depth AL.com story is a great follow-up to that trip, laying out exactly what’s happening down south, so don’t miss it.