Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Receives Federal Funding, But No Train For Pensacola Or Atmore

June 8, 2019

Gulf coast passenger rail service has received federal funding, but it won’t provide for train service to Atmore, Pensacola, or connections further east.

The Southern Rail Commission’s efforts to restore passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast received a significant shot in the arm Friday with the long-awaited announcement of a $33 million grant from the Federal Rail Administration (FRA).

The federal grant will cover about half of the $65.9 million cost, with the rest coming from commitments from the state of Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, the city of Mobile, Amtrak, and private partners, and is paired with priority investments from the state of Louisiana.

Combined, this funding will be used to make the major infrastructure and capital investments required to allow Amtrak to move ahead with launching new, regular, reliable passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile.

Last year, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey rejected the plan, and the state is contributing no funds to roll Amtrak past Mobile. As a result, the train will not continue to Atmore, Pensacola and other parts of Florida using the federal funds announced Friday.

Last fall, Ivey explained her reasons for declining to contribute state funds in a statement:

“I have carefully evaluated the impact of restoring passenger rail service between Mobile and New Orleans and the potential economic benefits it may produce. As a result of Alabama’s growing economic and global footprint, the Port of Mobile continues to expand, while Alabama achieved a record level of exports in 2017, totaling $21.7 billion. Accordingly, consideration must also be given to the impact passenger rail service will have on the commercial and freight rail service that share the same track. It has become clear to me that, though some economic benefit may be realized by new passenger rail service, such service will have an outsized detrimental impact on other types of rail service.

“As we continue to address congestion on our surface transportation systems, both on our highways and rail system, I currently do not plan to provide limited state resources to passenger rail service. We have higher priority opportunities to address congestion on I-10 through the Mobile River Bridge project, expansion of the Port of Mobile and numerous highway projects around the state,” Ivey said.

Amtrak ran an inspection train along the route in 2016, including stops in Atmore, Pensacola and east. Amtrak said they have also worked to minimize freight conflicts.

The new passenger rail service, expected to begin in about two years, will stop four times per day across its route.

The $33 million grant from the FRA comes from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program.

Pictured: An Amtrak inspection train rolls in Atmore (top and bottom) and Pensacola (inset) in February 2016. photos, click to enlarge.


12 Responses to “Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Receives Federal Funding, But No Train For Pensacola Or Atmore”

  1. Linda Minutolo on June 29th, 2019 6:08 pm

    Would love to see Amtrak have service from Orlando to New Orleans. It would be more relaxing, safer, not to mention avoiding all the car traffic which keeps getting more congested. We really need Amtrak back to the Florida area and soon.

  2. Jasper McMillan on June 26th, 2019 1:28 pm

    Amtrak had grown frustrated with Gulf Coast Service before Katrina struck. Freight interference contributed to extremely tardy service. In addition, ridership was not up to Amtraks expectations. Katrina merely gave Amtrak an “out” and they took it. It’s mostly a single-track route all the way to Jacksonville and must be shared with whatever Frieght service is out there. The original Sunset Limited only averaged a speed of 45 mph this making I-10 a far better option.option.

  3. Teresa on June 12th, 2019 5:41 pm

    So it’s Kay Ivey’s fault that NW Florida isnt reconnected to Amtrak?? That’s infuriating. Would LOVE to take the train to New Orleans for the weekend and not have to fool with expensive parking or driving in a city i don’t know. Alabama politicians can be so damn backward.

  4. sam on June 10th, 2019 5:54 pm

    there aren’t enough people in this area to justify train service.

  5. gmp on June 9th, 2019 11:46 pm

    In a way this is such a shame because in Europe trains and other public means of transportation are thriving, affordable and amazing ways to travel. But we Americans are, to quote a Queen song “I’m in Love With My car.”

  6. M in Bratt on June 9th, 2019 10:27 am

    Amtrak is a bottomless money pit. The Southern Rail Commission is just another bureaucratic organization that gains power and influence by growing the so called service that it regulates. If passenger rail service were economically feasible in this part of the country, don’t you think CSX would have passenger cars in their trains? Gov. Ivey is correct on this one, and should stick with her convictions.

  7. KOOL AID on June 9th, 2019 8:40 am

    Alabama politicians can raise gas taxes for roads-but use it for slush funds, fail to pass a lottery because the Indian gaming lobbies own Montgomery and deny rail service because it “might” hurt freight traffic. Alabama is too large to be an insane asylum and too small to be a banana republic but it resembles both.

  8. Duke of Wawbeek on June 9th, 2019 7:52 am

    What did Frank Sinatra say in the 1954 film titled Suddenly? I think it was “it didn’t stop”; and apparently Amtrak is not stopping either; not in Atmore anyway.

  9. anne 1of2 on June 8th, 2019 8:06 pm

    Like kids that want a toy they see but once they get it, they never play with it, Pensacola did not need nor want the train. Look at the Ferris wheel, the first ferries, and the 100’s of restaurants! This is not an area of retired millionaires. People have to work and need their money.

  10. AJ on June 8th, 2019 3:13 pm

    I think the decision to no go past mobile is a bit short-sided and almost a middle finger to the rest of Alabama and into FL. There can be a good economic partnership and opportunity to bring additional revenue to the Port from people east of Mobile.

  11. Chris on June 8th, 2019 1:58 pm

    Maybe Amtrak can provide service to Atmore, oh wait, Atmore is not a tourist destination. Just another South Alabama town on the downturn.

  12. Donald cooper on June 8th, 2019 10:40 am

    Why would you not include anything east of Mobile? I understand it would cost but it only makes senses to include Florida as well

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