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Amtrak’s return to the Coast...

Amtrak’s return to the Coast awaits decision in Mobile

By: Frank Corder - September 12, 2023

An Amtrak train moves through Pascagoula's downtown in March 2023 (Photo by Frank Corder)

The Mississippi Coast stops are ready to accept passengers when the rail service restarts.

If you were planning to hop on Amtrak and ride the rails between New Orleans and Mobile before the end of the year, you will have to wait well into 2024 due to wrangling over a platform and overlay track in Mobile, Alabama.

At its quarterly meeting on Friday in Point Clear, Alabama, the Southern Rail Commission met with representatives with Amtrak to discuss the progress of returning passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast.

Mobile’s City Council has yet to approve improvements to their existing train platform that complies with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards as well as a ground lease for a portion of a city-owned parking lot near the Mobile Convention Center for an overlay track.

A majority of the funding for these projects would come through federal grants. Negotiations between the City of Mobile and Amtrak are ongoing.

Mobile’s platform is the only stop along the New Orleans to Mobile route that is not completed.

Stops along the Mississippi Coast would include Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis – all of which have platforms that have been brought into compliance in anticipation of Amtrak’s return. Residents have seen Amtrak trains running across the Coast for months as line testing has been underway.

Southern Rail Commission Chairman Knox Ross, a former mayor of Pelahatchie, said the rail line restoration is moving forward with the goal of starting service next year.

“All these plans involve partnership agreements, whether it is with Federal Railroad Administration for grants we and others have applied to receive, state departments of transportation for matching support and guidance, with our statehouses for legislation, the City of Mobile for the terminal location, with host railroads, CSX and NS, and of course, with Amtrak,” Ross said in a statement. “All of these plans and partnerships are moving forward and must be in place for us to start service next year between Mobile and New Orleans.”

Ross said when all the elements have been finalized between the parties, the schedules, fares, and even the start date and official name of the train service will come via a joint formal announcement from Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission.

“Until then, we have work to do,” Ross added.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: frank@magnoliatribune.com