Alabama Opposes Amtrack Restart Linking New Orleans, Mobile
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced today she will oppose Amtrak's plan to resume passenger train service between New Orleans and Mobile
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said today that Alabama will oppose Amtrak’s plan to restart passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile. In March, Amtrak filed a petition with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) to force freight providers CSX Transportation (CSX) and Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) to allow daily operation of two daily trains between Mobile, AL and New Orleans beginning Jan 1, 2022.
While both Louisiana and Mississippi have supported the return of passenger rail service, Gov. Ivey wrote the STB in opposition, asking that Amtrak be required to complete a study on the potential impact those trains would have on freight traffic. Ivey stated that Alabama has withheld funding for the new rail service for several years over concern the passenger trains would interfere with freight traffic to the Port of Mobile.
“Without a completed operational modeling study, Alabama will not commit to providing any financial support to new Gulf Coast passenger service,” Ivey wrote.
Amtrak, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and other agencies have already approved and funded up to $66 million in targeted improvements along the route in order to support the passenger rail service. The daily trains would be scheduled with 12 hours between the two departures and 10 hours between the two arrivals, and the Mobile station would be more than a mile away from the Alabama State Docks main and interchange tracks.
“Elsewhere in the U.S., both CSX and NS successfully serve Amtrak and freight customers, coexisting and even thriving where there are far more trains and less infrastructure than what is available on the Gulf Coast today,” said Dennis Newman, Amtrak Executive Vice President for Planning and Asset Development. “It is time for the STB to step in to protect Amtrak’s rights to use freight railroad tracks to support service across America.”
The FRA, Amtrak, CSX, NS, Southern Rail Commission, and others have been working on returning passenger service to the Gulf Coast since 2015, and the potential improvements necessary to restore service have been funded since 2019. In spite of this, freight servicers have continued to drag their feet. Under STB rules, CSX and NS will now be required to provide Amtrak access to the rails or prove to the public why they can’t successfully host the trains.
“Restoring passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile is a critical economic driver for our region,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “I pledge to work with Amtrak and the railroads to help make the service a reality. We know that to grow, we have to think regionally, and this is a step in connecting New Orleanians with destinations along the Gulf Coast.”