Amtrak officially submits grant application to extend passenger rail service from Meridian, Miss. to Dallas-Fort Worth via I-20 corridor
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Travelers in the ArkLaTex could have a new mode of transportation in the future.
On Wednesday, June 7, officials with Amtrak, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC), and the City of Shreveport held a briefing to update the public on the I-20 corridor passenger railway project. Amtrak has now officially applied for federal funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to connect New York, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta to the Dallas-Fort Worth area via communities in central Mississippi, north Louisiana, and east Texas.
“This is the closest the ArkLaTex has ever come to having a real chance for the east and west service across Louisiana, Mississippi over to Texas,” Marc Margliari, spokesperson for Amtrak, said.
This project would extend the existing long-distance Amtrak Crescent train from Meridian, Miss. This would be the first time Amtrak has extended a long-distance railway in decades.
“The goal here is to improve the CPKC track, so we can ride a passenger train for at least one round trip without having any negative effect on freight service; that’s doable. In some parts, the railroad is already wide enough for second tracks. And in some parts, the railroad is wide enough to extend sidings,”Margliari added.
He says the grant will cover a number of things like project development and more.
“It’ll take care of engineering and environmental clearance. It’ll provide some ideas about scheduling, roughly what time the train will be passing through and once we know that, we know how many people are going to ride it,” Margliari said. “We’re not talking about mowing down neighborhoods and putting up new bridges to make this happen. It’s improving existing railroad infrastructure.”
At the briefing, officials from Amtrak and SRC thanked the mayors of Shreveport, Vicksburg, Ruston, and Monroe for working with them to move forward on this project. A decision on the grant application is expected sometime this fall.
Knox Ross, chairman of SRC, says once complete, this railway is expected to bring $70 million in economic impact to the north Louisiana area annually. No timeline was given on when the extension might be complete, but Mayor Tom Arceneaux said it could be five to seven years.
SPECIFICS FROM THE SOUTHERN RAIL COMMISSION
- The proposed I-20 Rail Corridor service will connect the mega-regions of Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta with the economies and populations of Northern Louisiana and beyond through connections with Amtrak’s Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans, and Crescent trains.
- Passenger rail service provides an attractive transportation alternative to automobile travel in the congested I-10 corridor. With shrinking regional airport service, threat of losing essential air service is a real concern. New rail service would create a life-line to connect residents with the international airport in Dallas-Fort Worth.
- The I-20 East Texas Corridor Advisory Committee was established in August 2013 by the Texas Transportation Commission to assist TxDOT in assessing the rural transportation needs, including passenger rail, along I-20 by providing locally focused input and recommendations.
- The Southern Rail Commission continues to partner to support the efforts of the I-20 Corridor Council. See more: https://www.i-20corridorcouncil.com/
- The East Texas Corridor Council (Amtrak, TXDOT, Union Pacific and local governments) completed a feasibility study in 2014 to study passenger rail service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Shreveport.
- In 2015, the NW Louisiana Council of Governments completed a feasibility study for the 2nd segment for this passenger rail service to link Dallas-Fort Worth, Shreveport, and Vicksburg, Miss. This study was funded by the State of Louisiana.
- To complete the full I-20 Rail Corridor Study, Mississippi will evaluate passenger rail service from Vicksburg to Meridian, pending state funding.
- In 2021, Canadian Pacific has proposed a merger with Kansas City Southern freight railroad which has positive implications for this service.
- In 2022, the following organizations submitted Resolutions of Support to the STB for the merger of CP and KSC and the passenger rail service along the I-20 Corridor: Anniston, Athens, Blanchard, Bossier Parish, Bossier Chamber of Commerce, Brandon, Byram, Caddo Parish, Village of Dixie Inn, Grambling, Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, Haughton, Hinds County, Jackson, Jackson Metropolitan Planning Organization, Jacksonville State University, Lauderdale, Lincoln Parish, Meridian, Monroe, Natchitoches, Newton County, Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments, Rankin, Raymond, Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, Richland, Ruston, Scott County, Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau, Simsboro, Vicksburg, Warren County, and Webster Parish.
- The STB approved the merger on March 15, 2023 and CP is committed to working with SRC and exploring passenger rail service on this route.
- Also, Amtrak recently announced it will lead the Federal-State Partnership Program application for the I-20 Corridor to submit to the FRA in April of 2023. The application will support the extension of passenger rail service from Meridian, Miss. to Dallas/Fort Worth along the I-20 corridor.
- Rail Passengers Association recently conducted an Economic Impact Assessment on Amtrak’s proposal to extend service on the Crescent route from Meridian, Miss., to Fort Worth, Texas, while simultaneously operating a modified service on the Crescent’s current route to New Orleans, finding it could generate as much as $50.7 million annually in new economic benefits (2023 dollars) to a dozen communities that would be served and some $207 million annually overall to the three states – Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
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