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Louisiana Gov. Bel Edwards, state Department of Transportation and Development and Amtrak officials yesterday signed a service development agreement calling for the return of intercity passenger-rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Signed at the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, the agreement is viewed as a breakthrough for a project that dates to 2008, when the idea was introduced through a concept study, state officials said in a press release. According to the agreement, passenger service could start as early as 2027.
"An Amtrak line connecting Louisiana’s capital to the largest metropolitan area in the state will have immense economic benefits for both cities and the parishes in between," said Edwards.
An Amtrak train on the yet-to-be-named route would stop at downtown Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge South, Gonzales, LaPlace, New Orleans International Airport, Jefferson Parish and New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal.
The planned route is scheduled to take 75 to 90 minutes. The initial plan calls for one round trip daily, expanding to two round trips later. Expansion would depend on an evaluation of operations and potential railroad improvements.
Amtrak will use tracks now in place and owned by Canadian Pacific Kansas City and CN. The tracks, which run along the Interstate 10 corridor, are one of three routes that connect New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The CPKC and CN tracks were chosen because they were the most direct and had less conflict with freight transportation, state officials said.
Baton Rouge hasn’t had passenger-rail service since 1969, two years before Amtrak began, noted Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner.
"Amtrak is working with states and others across the nation to have a route map that reflects where the population has grown and where people want to travel," Gardner said. "In poll after poll, here in Louisiana and nationally, when given the option to take a train rather than drive, the public wants Amtrak and passenger trains as a travel choice."