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U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced Tuesday the formation of a new group to study the possible return of Amtrak service between New Orleans and Orlando, Fla., along the Gulf Coast.Service on route was lost after Hurricane Katrina in 2005."Restoring this service along the Coast could have a monumental impact on the region’s economic development, as well as Mississippians' quality of life," Wicker said in a press release.Over the next three decades, the number of people living along the Gulf Coast is expected to increase by 10 million. The region needs a "strong transportation system that includes passenger-rail service" to remain competitive and grow, said Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg in the release.Last year, Wicker and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) spearheaded passenger-rail legislation that included creating a Gulf Coast working group to study the restoration of service east of New Orleans, according to Wicker's release.Last month, Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission announced plans to run an "inspection train" between New Orleans and Florida to explore the feasibility of reintroducing Gulf Coast service. That train operates today and tomorrow.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated since its initial posting.]