Gulf Coast passenger rail receives $4.36 million R&E grant

Sept. 3, 2019
The grant from FRA’s R&E program will fund operating expenses for the first year of rail service between New Orleans and Mobile.

The Southern Rail Commission will receive a $4.36 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The grant will help restore passenger rail service between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. 

Damage caused by Hurricane Katrina forced Amtrak to suspend service along the Gulf Coast in 2005. The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) has been working to see that service restored.

“This funding will help Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama resume passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile to enhance regional economic growth and rural mobility,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. 

The funding is made possible through FRA’s FY 2017 Restoration and Enhancement (R&E) Grants Program, which provides operating assistance grants for initiating, restoring, or enhancing intercity rail passenger transportation. SRC said the funds awarded will fund operating expenses for the first year of service along the new rail line and leverage commitments of approximately $1.4 million from the states of Louisiana and Mississippi. 

“States are in the best position to determine how to meet the mobility needs of their citizens, and I commend the Southern Rail Commission for all its hard work to restore Gulf Coast intercity passenger rail service,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory.

The R&E grant follows the project being awarded a $33-million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant in June. The CRISI grant will cover approximately half of the estimated $65.9 million project, which calls for major infrastructure and capital investments to allow Amtrak to move ahead with launching new, regular, reliable passenger service along the Gulf Coast.

SRC explains that these investments confirm the importance of restoring passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile and show confidence in expected strong ridership.

“Since the demise of passenger rail service in 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana and its citizens have dreamed of a day with restored passenger service along the Gulf Coast. This dream got one step closer to reality thanks to the FRA’s award of the FY17 R&E grant,” said John Spain, SRC chairman. “The Southern Rail Commission must acknowledge the hard work of the Transportation for America team to see that we were well-positioned to receive this award. With continued federal, state and local support, the Gulf Coast states will soon enjoy the benefits of high-quality, daily passenger rail.”

John Robert Smith, the chairman of Transportation for America and former mayor of Meridian, Miss., said of the R&E award, “Investment in passenger rail reaps outsized benefits—not just in cities connected to rail, but across entire regions. We hope that the success of Gulf Coast passenger rail will serve as inspiration and a model to potential passenger rail projects across the country.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.