Railroad News

Southern states miss funding deadline to restore Amtrak's Gulf Coast service

The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) announced yesterday that it was unable to apply for the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) fiscal-year 2017 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements (CRISI) funding due to a lack of financial commitments from Mississippi and Alabama.

The money would have been used to help restore Amtrak service along the U.S. Gulf Coast, where passenger service has been suspended since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The CRISI program was created and funded with the support of U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and then-U.S. Sen. Thad Cochrane (R-Mississippi), SRC officials said in a press release.

Although Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was ready to commit $9.5 million toward restoring the Amtrak service, governors in Mississippi and Alabama didn't commit the required matching funds. The three states need to provide matching funds for the $35.5 million in federal funding through the CRISI program, according to an AL.com report.

Alabama's share would have been $5.3 million over three years, the news site reported.

If Alabama and Mississippi pledge funding in the future, SRC officials are ready to apply for the FY18 round of funding, commission officials said.

"I know I speak for my fellow commissioners when I say I'm very disappointed to not take advantage of this funding for which Gulf Coast passenger rail is so perfectly suited," said SRC Chairman John Spain. "We'll turn our sights to the 2018 fiscal year, and I'm hopeful we will have full support to apply for CRISI funds at that time," said John Spain, SRC Chairman.

In their press release, SRC officials cited a recent University of Southern Mississippi study that found restoration of Amtrak's Gulf Coast service could boost local economies in all three states.

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