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Members of the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) are hopeful that Congress will approve a measure included in the House's version of the Amtrak funding bill that calls for a study of the feasibility of restoring an Amtrak rail route between Orlando, Fla., and New Orleans.The group recently met with Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg to discuss restoration of the so-called Gulf Coast Passenger-Rail Route. An Amtrak route that used to run between between Jacksonville, Fla., and New Orleans, was discontinued after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Restoring the service is an "important project for improving connectivity and economic coordination" in the region, according to a statement on the commission's website.Earlier this month, the House passed its version of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, which included a provision that would have the FRA convene a working group to evaluate restoring intercity passenger rail service in along the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Orlando.The working group's membership would include representatives of Amtrak, the states and communities along the proposed route, regional transportation and metropolitan planning organizations, the SRC, and freight railroads whose tracks may be used for the passenger trains.Among other issues, the study would evaluate potential options for restoring service, the necessary capital projects and equipment necessary, and identify funding sources including the potential for public-private partnerships.Meanwhile, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority's board late last week authorized a study of the potential for establishing a new intercity passenger-rail service on the Detroit-Lansing-Grand Rapids corridor in Michigan, according to a report in The Ann Arbor News.
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