The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) has announced that its Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Working Group’s (GCWG) Final Report was delivered to Congress by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The Report details anticipated capital costs of less than $112 million, and an estimated $5 million for project development and planning for passenger rail service to be restored across America’s Gulf Coast.
The GCWG, which was created by Congress to study the rail service in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, included appointees from Amtrak, CSX, FRA, SRC, and more than 30 regional stakeholders.
The GCWG recommended two preferred service options: daily long-distance train service between Orlando and New Orleans with estimated annual operating need of $5.48 million and a daily regional train between New Orleans to Mobile with an estimated annual operating need of $4 million.
“We are encouraged that FRA has found that rail service can begin quickly and at a reasonable cost,” said Greg White, chairman of the SRC. “The SRC is grateful for the unified political and grassroots support the restoration of Gulf Coast passenger rail service has received from Mayors to Governors to the gulf south's Congressional Delegation.”
“Since 2012, the base of this support has consistently expressed that daily passenger service is essential for the economic resiliency of America’s gulf coast,” added White.
The Report outlines a number of capital improvements and operating costs associated with launching the services, with some of this funding acquired through new federal rail programs. The SRC has also received initial commitments from private sector partners across the gulf coast interested in contributing to the rail project.
The SRC and FRA are currently providing $1.33 million in grant funds to communities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama for station area planning and rail safety improvements. Communities have contributed their own cash match, with more than $2.6 million in projects underway in preparation for service restoration.
The FRA report contains a letter from the SRC that addresses cost demands by CSX and recommends continued coordination and collaboration among the Working Group partners.
“Congress has identified this route as being of high importance and interest for the public”, concluded White. “Continued investments in our national passenger rail system are vital as our society becomes increasingly mobile and we look for ways to improve access to skilled workers, jobs, and new opportunities for economic development. The SRC is committed to ensuring the Gulf Coast region of our country is not left out.”