Amtrak’s Coming Back To Mobile and New Orleans with New Mardi Gras Service on the Rails
By Esther Akinsola
Since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, Amtrak trains ceased operation on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. After years of hardship and recovery by the people affected the route is finally back into shape and the passenger rail service will be making a comeback. It has a new name, Mardi Gras Service, and we think the locals and tourists are gonna love this!
The train will run two daily trips from Mobile to New Orleans with four stops in Mississippi. A one-way trip will last about 3 hours and 23 minutes. A ticket price of the Gulf Coast passenger rail, the new route has not been released.
Amtrak announced its plan in 2021 to begin service on the Mississippi, Gulf Coast connecting Mobile and
New Orleans with stops in four major routes Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Bay St Louis.
First Amtrak Train Inspection in 2016
The first inspection was carried out on February 18, 2016. The train was packed with government and rail transportation officials and media personnel, that was the first time in ten years that a passenger train has left New Orleans and headed east to Florida.
During its first operation, the Amtrak train line was named “Gulf Coast Limited” and “Sunset Limited’ respectively, and the deliberations for a new name continued until on August 30, 2023 they made the announcement. Mardi Gras Service.
According to AL.com much of the details of the new train service remain secret.
“Among the unanswered questions include the exact date for Amtrak’s restart, the costs needed to restart the service, and what kind of concessions various entities involved in the STB case agreed upon, ticket fares, and how much investment will be made in getting Mobile prepared for the new passenger trains.”
Wiley Blankenship, Chairman of the SRC noted that “since the inspection, which brought out thousands of citizens across the Gulf coast demonstrating positive support for passenger rail, this is one of the major milestones we’ve been working toward.”
Additional work has been ongoing to address issues on the port of Mobile before service can start. Freight and rail transportation authorities believe that this opening will boost local economies still recovering from the pandemic and harsh weather effects.
The Opening in 2023 of Mardi Gras Service
In a bold move by Amtrak, it announced that the trail service will open in 2023. Knox Ross, the chair of the Mississippi Southern Rail Commission in an interview with WLOX in 2022 said “There is still a lot of work to do, I don’t when this will happen exactly but they’ve announced their intention and we are happy.
The train service still needs to deliberate on schedules, improvements that have to be made to the infrastructure, station stops, platforms, and ways to get them ADA accessible.”
This project is expected to open up the foreign tourism of New Orleans, increase visits to the coasts, and make the coast a day destination for people from New Orleans and Mobile. In a press release from the southern rail commission in 2022, it stated, “Having worked tirelessly with the state, federal and local officials on this project we are thrilled to announce a departure date is in sight for the passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast.”
Funding for the Trains
The SRC has successfully secured multiple federal grants to enable the Amtrak train to start next year in 2024.
This includes full federal operating coasts support for the first year, second and third years totaling $11.2 million and local matching funds to improve area railroad amenities for passengers and freight service totaling $66 million cities along the four routes have received $2 million in funding for planning and upgrading their rail stations.
Freight companies and the Alabama ports have pledged $15 million to improve the routes so it reduces the time passengers use to commute. The trip time was initially revealed to be about 3 hours 23 minutes if all improvements are made as they ought to be.
The freight companies and Amtrak whose decision on the project conflicted have come to an agreement in November 2022, which has had both parties working together for the benefit of the project and communication with the press has also decreased, Mississippi today was able to glean the letter supporting the project included in the application CSX noted it will pay about $9.9 million in matching funds.
Operations On The Gulf Coast
“The project will improve the introduction of a new twice daily Amtrak service between New Orleans and mobile, while at the same five aiding freight service quality.” Executive Vice President of Operation CSX Transportation Jamie Boychuk
Among the improvement highlighted in the application is a new station tracks in mobile, installing new switches, additional crossovers, yard and railroad crossings, a new station building in Biloxi, and platform canopies in Bay St. Louis and Gulfport.
In an interview granted by Representative 0f R-Mobile Jerry Carl on July 3rd, he explained his stance against the project ” I have never been in favor of that, the distance is too short as much money as expected to spend.”