RELEASE:

Wicker Announces Formation of Working Group to Restore Passenger Rail Service to the Gulf Coast

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today announced that a new group has been established to study the return of passenger rail service between New Orleans to Orlando along the Gulf Coast. This line of service was lost after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Today’s announcement marks the first concrete step in bringing back passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast,” Sen. Roger Wicker said. “Passenger rail is an essential part of our national transportation network. Restoring this service along the Coast could have a monumental impact on the region’s economic development, as well as Mississippians’ quality of life.”

“Over the next 35 years, another 10 million people will call the Gulf Coast home. For the region to stay competitive and grow, it needs a strong transportation system that includes passenger rail service. Today brings us closer to returning passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast, and the Federal Railroad Administration looks forward to working the region to put passenger trains back on the tracks,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

“The Senator and the Southern Rail Commission have made it clear: they want Amtrak to assist in any way we can to reintroduce passenger service along the Gulf Coast,” said Tom Carper, Amtrak Board Member and Past Chairman. “The efforts that have brought us all this far, including this inspection train, and the work we will do in the months ahead, will demonstrate how working as partners makes a difference.”

Last year, Wicker led the effort in the Senate with Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., to pass comprehensive passenger rail legislation. Specifically, Wicker’s legislation authorized the creation of a new Gulf Coast Working Group. The group’s work was funded in the spending bill passed by Congress in December 2015. It will also be aided by an innovative grant program created to provide assistance to applicants like the Southern Rail Commission for the purpose of initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity rail passenger transportation.

On February 18, the Southern Rail Commission and Amtrak will embark on a passenger rail inspection trip to examine existing infrastructure and the opportunities that intercity rail service could provide to the area. The trip, which begins in New Orleans, La., will make several stops in Mississippi before continuing on to Florida. Those stops include Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula.

2/16/16