The Southern Rail Commission wants to make your commute to the Big Easy, a little easier. Now, they need the governor of Alabama to sign a financial commitment to bring passenger trains back to the Gulf Coast. It has been three years in the making, and the governor has to agree by Wednesday.
Passenger trains haven’t been through the Gulf Coast in nearly 13 years, and if the Southern Rail Commission has their way, that could change soon.
“We want to provide a viable form of transportation that’s reliable different than what we’ve had in the past, where on time performance is required within 15 minutes of this station call,” said Jerry Gehman, the Commissioner of the Southern Rail Commission.
The plan is to have four trips a day between New Orleans and Mobile, two in the morning and two in the evening. One leaving from Mobile the other leaving from New Orleans twice a day.
“We’ve not had four trains a day between Mobile and New Orleans, passenger trains a day, in our history,” said Gehman. He continued, “it’s not something that’s just a pipe dream, this is three years of significant work.”
This project comes with federal grants, and in order for them to get that money, Governor Kay Ivey has to commit $5.35 million. The governor of Louisiana has made the commitment, and the governor of Mississippi is expected to commit before the Thursday deadline.
“Then that means that if Alabama does not, the train will stop in Pascagoula, and go from Pascagoula to New Orleans four times a day, seven days a week, and Mobile will miss out, Alabama will miss out on the opportunity for the economic benefit, for the tourism benefit, for all things connected to this passenger service,” said Gehman.
The University of Southern Mississippi did an economic impact study of this railway, to see how it would benefit the states involved, not only through tourism but with the jobs it would bring.
“Per this study, a 10% increase in tourism reflects a 25:1 payback, we expect it to be a 20% increase in tourism and the payback is 43:1,” said Gehman.
Hoping that riding the rails will draw more people into the Gulf Coast.
The Southern Rail Commission will be holding a press conference Monday in Gulf Port on the economic impact of this rail service.
If this is approved, the passenger rail could be operational in 12-18 months.