Gulf Coast Train Is Still Needed.
For probably ten years now, the traveling public, NARP, and many political and civic leaders have been calling for a return of passenger service between New Orleans and Florida’s east coast.
Finally, more than a year ago, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) provided a half a million dollars to create the Gulf Coast Working Group (GCWG) to conduct a study and come up with a recommendation. The GCWG was made up of members of the House and the Senate from affected states, a couple of governors, local officials along the proposed routes, some media people, members of the Southern Rail Commission, representatives from CSX (the host railroad) and Amtrak, and Jim Mathews, president and CEO of NARP. There were a couple of others whose names I can’t recall at the moment, but the point is, this was a serious study involving all the players.
First, the desire for a resumption of passenger service was strongly reaffirmed. Furthermore, two preferred routes were identified. The first would restore the New Orleans-to-Orlando train and upgrade it from three days a week to a daily service. The other option would also be a daily train, but it would operate between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.
A report submitted to Congress said either option would cost about $118 million for track and signal improvements and other necessary costs. The report also emphasized the benefits either of those options would bring to the entire area: expand travel markets; improve access to jobs, education and healthcare; reduce vehicular congestion; and provide support for disaster and emergency response during coastal storm events.
To which, CSX says, “You wanna run your passenger trains on our tracks, it’ll cost you $2.3 billion. Take it or leave it!”
There are enlightened corporations that recognize and embrace a greater role in today’s society. And then there are companies like CSX.