Despite President Trump’s unwise budget proposals regarding Amtrak, our state might yet see an expansion of service after all. This is because the Gulf Coast Working Group has reported to Congress on the beneficial nature of restoring service along the Gulf Coast – service that was suspended after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and never restarted. The region has seen a proliferation of growth in certain areas since 2005, particularly in the western Panhandle region of Florida, where I-10 carries more traffic than it can handle in some stretches.
The preferred restoration of services to the region according to the task force are to have a long-distance train between New Orleans and Orlando. More details as to the findings in the executive summary below:
• New Orleans, LA and Orlando, FL via long-distance train for one daily round trip, and
• New Orleans, LA and Mobile, AL via state-supported train for one daily round trip.
This option consists of two of the five alternatives studied by Amtrak for its December 2015
report for the SRC. That report, titled Potential Gulf Coast Service Restoration Options,
included an analysis of ridership levels, projected revenues, and associated costs. For the
purpose of this Report, Amtrak’s analysis was used to estimate annual operating needs for each
service: $5.48 million for the long-distance train between New Orleans and Orlando, and
$4 million for the state-supported train between New Orleans and Mobile.
The GCWG identified the Orlando and Mobile services as preferred because they outperformed
the other options studied by Amtrak in terms of ridership demand and operating funding needs.
In addition, they are expected to expand markets for tourism and business travel; reduce
vehicular congestion on Interstate 10; improve access to jobs, education, and healthcare; and
provide support for disaster and emergency response in a region susceptible to coastal storm
This Report considers restoring passenger rail service on the aforementioned corridor segments
at two investment levels:
• Minimum needed for passenger rail service – primarily station improvements. This
investment level would support restoration of a long-distance train only at the level similar to
the suspended Sunset Limited operations between New Orleans, LA and Orlando, FL; and
• Service level for ongoing operations – improvements that are intended to reduce trip times
and enhance service reliability. This investment level would support the addition of the
state-supported train, which would operate during the day when freight traffic between New
Orleans and Mobile is higher; as a result, more improvements are recommended. However,
the effectiveness of the improvements for on-time performance has not been validated as part
of this Report, but doing so is recommended as a next step.
You can read the full report here. It probably helps the cause of restoring this needed service that every member of Congress along the proposed line except in the city of New Orleans itself and the Orlando Metro area are Republicans. That might force the issue and turn back Trump’s desires to pare Amtrak back to just the Northeastern corridor.