/Gulf Coast railway hearing underway

Gulf Coast railway hearing underway

Wicker stated that “restoration of this vital service was long overdue” to the Surface Transportation Board via Zoom. “The effects of Hurricane Katria are still being felt… one of those victims is passenger rail across Gulf Coast.” The Surface Transportation Board is charged with deciding on the future of a public route of trains that would run from Mobile to New Orleans with four stops in Mississippi. The Gulf Coast passenger train stops were not restored after Hurricane Katrina, 2005. However, the freight railroad companies that own them have long since repaired and replaced the tracks. Amtrak filed a complaint to the transportation board after years of deliberation over the use of the railways, and attempts to make a plan. The Southern Rail Commission is the region’s champion for rails and conducted feasibility studies. CSX has been accused of stalling progress. Amtrak and private railroad companies usually reach agreements to use the hearings outside of courtroom-style hearings. The hearing heard testimony from officials from Alabama and Mississippi, but there were also representatives from Pennsylvania and Oregon. Amit Bose (administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration at the Department of Transportation) stated that the board’s decision would have significant implications far beyond the Gulf Coast. “We believe it is imperative that host railroads comply with their fundamental statutory obligations in order to allow the expansion of intercity railway services.” The case will be closely watched by the railroad industry as it could have a significant impact on the future of passenger train expansion in the United States. Despite the support from DOT and Bose for the Gulf Coast route’s construction, Alabama leaders have sided with freight railroad companies who have stated that more research is needed to determine the track’s capacity. This strategy has been called a strategy of delay and death for passenger railroad advocates. CSX, which is the main company in this case, said it was open to a new route provided it does not negatively impact freight. However, it added that more research is needed to confirm that. Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon expressed concern that increased train traffic could worsen the country’s supply chain problems. Alabama is dependent on the Port of Mobile’s economic benefits for freight companies. Amtrak’s proposed route would cover more than 200 miles with two trains traveling round trip — one in the morning, and one in the evening. Only 50 miles of the route passes through Mississippi, with stops at Gulfport, Biloxi, Bay St. Louis and Pascagoula.