Fact-finding meeting set for Mobile on Gulf Coast passenger service

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Crowds greet a New Orleans-Jacksonville, Fla., inspection train at Mobile, Ala., on Feb. 18, 2016, at the former site of the Amtrak station once served by the Sunset Limited. A meeting is scheduled for this week in Mobile to address city council concerns about the planned revival of passenger service on the route.
Bob Johnston

MOBILE, Ala. — More than 40 community leaders have been invited to a July 12 fact-finding meeting in Mobile to address the city’s concerns about plans to revive Amtrak service along the Gulf Coast.

Wiley Blankenship, president and CEO of the Coastal Alabama Partnership and a member of the Southern Rail Commission, which has spearheaded the revival of Gulf Coast Service, told AL.com that the leaders have been invited to “listen to the absolute factual information on operational costs, fares, ridership, and everything that will pertain to the New Orleans-to-Mobile route.”

The effort received a $33 million federal grant last month [see “Gulf Coast corridor wins federal grant to restore passenger service,” Trains News Wire, June 9, 2019], and Mississippi and Louisiana have committed state funds for the project. But Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has balked at providing her state’s $2.7-million share of the funding, and Mobile officials have raised questions about topics ranging from the cost of tickets to the possibility Amtrak trains will interfere with access to the city’s cruise-ship terminal. [See “Mobile, Ala., council delays action on resolution supporting return of Amtrak,” Trains News Wire, June 26, 2019,]

Mobile City Councilman Joel Daves had cited the possibility of $180 tickets based on the cost of Amtrak fares for similar distances elsewhere, but Blankenship said comparable fares for state-supported services range from $25 to $45.

Amtrak has not served the route since damage from Hurricane Katrina ended the New Orleans-to-Florida segment of the Sunset Limited in 2005.

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