Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bringing back Gulf Coast passenger train service

For the majority of the Sunset Limited’s history, the train traveled all the way from New Orleans (and in its last 12 years prior to 2005, Sanford, Florida) to Los Angeles, California, which made it the only transcontinental passenger train in our nation’s history,”
Unfortunately, during Hurricane Katrina, the route’s tracks were damaged along the Gulf Coast, which has led to its temporary demise since August, 2005.  And for my constituents in Florida, as well as many residents along the Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, the current lack of service has entirely denied residents access to Amtrak routes. 
Additionally, the failure of restoring a Gulf Coast passenger rail line also prevents it from being used as an evacuation route during national emergencies
Since the hurricane, I have been working hard to restore this service to the Gulf.  In fact, I incorporated legislative language in the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 regarding the Sunset Limited rail line to conduct a study for its potential reinstatement. 
Additionally, in this year’s Transportation Reauthorization bill, I had language included which created a ‘Gulf Coast Working Group to develop plans and financing options for restored passenger service, and the inaugural meeting of the Working Group was held on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in New Orleans. 
Moreover, I advocated for a TIGER grant in support of Gulf Coast Rail Service, and during my time as Chair of the House Transportation Committee’s Railroad Subcommittee, held a field hearing at the New Orleans Amtrak station shortly after Hurricane Katrina with the goal of re-focusing on homeland security and passenger rail restoration.
For these reasons, I participated in this trip through the southern Gulf Coast to emphasize the importance of this rail line.  In the upcoming congressional session, I will continue to press for the restoration of passenger rail service in the Gulf Coast region, and will work together with all stakeholders in an attempt to bring back this extremely important rail service.