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Amtrak is bringing back a route shuttered since Hurricane Katrina

The 2022 infrastructure law signed by President Biden is funding 70 rail improvement projects in 35 states and Washington, D.C.

By Oliver Willis - September 25, 2023
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An Amtrak train departs 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021.
An Amtrak train departs 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021. The Biden administration announced Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, that it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects that improve railway safety and boost capacity, with much of the money coming from the 2021 infrastructure law. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The Department of Transportation on Monday announced that 70 rail improvement projects in 35 states and Washington, D.C., had received funding from the 2022 federal infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden.

The projects are part of the department’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program. Other projects include upgrades to railroad crossings, bridge repairs, train rehabilitation, and apprenticeship training programs.

“These projects will make American rail safer, more reliable, and more resilient, delivering tangible benefits to dozens of communities where railroads are located, and strengthening supply chains for the entire country,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

The largest recipient of funds will be a $178.4 million project to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast, where service has been absent since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The Sunset Limited served as the only coast-to-coast Amtrak passenger train route, transporting passengers from Los Angeles, California, to Orlando, Florida. Hurricane Katrina destroyed large areas of railway, which forced service on the route to end at New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project will use the funds to restore passenger service in the Mississippi region, while future plans call for restoring service all the way through to Florida. The Southern Rail Commission, which is coordinating the project along with Amtrak, said the train route would also feature stops in the Mississippi cities of Biloxi, Gulfport, Pascagoula, and Bay St. Louis.

Advocates have touted economic benefits to cities and towns in the region from a new influx of visitors. As many as 700,000 tourists from across the country visit New Orleans each year, and passenger trains would provide more transportation options.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) backed the funding decision by the Biden administration.

“Restoring passenger rail service will create jobs, improve quality of life, and offer a convenient travel option for tourists, contributing to our region’s economic growth and vitality,” he said in a release.

Wicker voted for the law, but the rest of his fellow Mississippi Republicans in Congress opposed the legislation in both chambers.

The law put aside a total of $66 billion in funding for Amtrak and changed Amtrak’s organizational goal to “meet the intercity passenger rail needs of the United States.”

Biden has long been a fan of Amtrak. While in public office, he used Amtrak for an estimated 8,000 trips between Washington and Delaware.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to position Amtrak and rail and inner-city rail as well, in general, to play a central role in our transformation in transportation and economic future, to make investments that can help America get back on track,” Biden said in remarks at an April 2021 event in Philadelphia marking the 50th anniversary of Amtrak.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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