Southern Rail Commission: Update on Alabama’s Passenger Rail Progress

The last step to restoration of passenger rail service between Montgomery and Birmingham was initiated in October, when the Southern Rail Commission completed an application to the Federal Railroad Administration for a $950, 000 grant to complete environmental studies of the rail corridor.

Passenger service can “launch in the next six to nine months easily when the grant is awarded, ” says Bill McFarland, one of the five Alabama representatives on the board of the Commission.

The Southern Rail Commission is a three state-compact — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama — leading efforts to restore passenger rail service to the South.

The only passenger service up and running in Alabama now is Amtrak’s Crescent route, with Alabama stops in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Anniston.

The Commission also has a grant application before the FRA for a corridor study for passenger service along the Gulf Coast, from New Orleans to Jacksonville. That passenger line, running through Mobile, was active until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina knocked it out.

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A corridor study for passenger service between Mobile and Montgomery is pending completion. It is the second phase of the study already completed for the line between Montgomery and Birmingham.

text by Chris McFadyen

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