NEW ORLEANS, La. (WGNO)- The wheels are turning on a long awaited railroad project. Millions of dollars in federal funding is in place for the New Orleans to Mobile Passenger Train.
Soon travelers will have a way to get to and from New Orleans. They’ll be able to travel by train.
“It’s exciting. We still have a few more steps to go. Amtrak is in negotiations on the railroads but we are very close but, we have the money in place,” explained Knox Ross, Southern Rail Commission.
With $5.45 million dollars in their pocket, the Southern Rail Commissioner can get the wheels turning on the project.
“It’s a historic thing because you bring three states together. Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi. Places that normally haven’t been hotbeds of rail passenger expansion,” said Ross.
Restoring the passenger rail is a major project that has been in the works for awhile. It was last operational in 2005 but, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the critical rail infrastructure, which is why restoration is a must.
“The biggest thing now that we have is getting the agreements with the host railroads,” shared Ross. Amtrak is leading that. Their able to continue to do that work.”
Luckily, the pandemic has not slowed down their progress. The pandemic is actually allowing more opportunities to push the project forward. The Southern Rail Commission told us they have more access to equipment because of the pandemic and the idea of train travel is becoming more appealing to travels because of social distancing.
“Given the pandemic and the lowered amount of travel the equipment is going to be there. That’s not going to be a problem. The crews are going to be there. They’ve got to be trained. That’s not gonna be a problem,” reasoned Ross. “So in some instances, there is going to be better opportunities for us moving forward than there were before the pandemic as far as equipment and the logistics.”
In the long run, Commissioner Ross says, he feels like the train restoration project is happening at the best time.
The goal is to have the trains back on track in 24 months. Negotiations are underway with the host train companies.