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U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last week endorsed the restoration of Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast.
In a letter the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the senator said he supported restoring passenger-rail service to the route between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, that was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Wicker’s letter was sent in response to Amtrak’s petition to restore the service along the coast."Implementing twice-daily service between New Orleans and Mobile would provide a huge economic lift to Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula, and other cities along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. It would serve as the culmination of Mississippi’s efforts to recover from Hurricane Katrina," wrote Wicker, who has long advocated for passenger-rail service in the region.
In March, Amtrak petitioned the STB to require CSX and Norfolk Southern Railway to allow Amtrak to use the Class Is' tracks for a passenger-rail service between New Orleans and Mobile. The region has been without passenger service since Hurricane Katrina damaged rail infrastructure there.
Amtrak wants to begin providing rail service next year. CSX and NS have asked the STB to dismiss Amtrak’s petition unless Amtrak completes a traffic control modeling study of the area.
Meanwhile, the board of the Port of New Orleans (NOLA) and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Commission (NOPB) last week asked the STB to require Amtrak to complete the traffic control study with supplemental engineering and cost report.
In an April 23 letter to the STB, POLB and NOPB officials said they are not opposed to restoring Amtrak service to the region. However, the study “is needed to adequately understand the impact the passenger-rail service will have on current and future freight service through the region,” they wrote.