Potentially Some Very Good News.
There’s another very important provision in the draft of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that was agreed upon by the House-Senate conference committee. It’s a very long, very complex document, but one comparatively brief paragraph directs the Secretary of Transportation to put together a Working Group to look into restoring train service between Orlando, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana. And it gives the group nine months to complete its work.
This is a big deal!
New Orleans-to-Orlando was roughly the eastern third of the pre-Katrina route of the Sunset Limited, Amtrak trains #1 and #2. It ran three days a week in both directions between Los Angeles and Orlando by way of New Orleans until that devastating hurricane wiped out miles of track east of New Orleans. The track has long since been restored, but to the continuing frustration of local business and government officials, and despite NARP’s efforts, Amtrak has never resumed service over that segment of the Sunset’s route.
After its members are appointed and the meetings begin, the Working Group’s mandate is to evaluate all options for the restoration of passenger service in that corridor. And now, with that provision in the bill that has just come out of the conference committee, the pressure is on.
The group may well have a leg up, however, because there have already been meetings and discussions involving all the interested parties, including NARP. All of this is—what shall I call it?—informed speculation that’s subject to change, but when and if the Orlando-New Orleans passenger service resumes, it could very likely be an all-coach train, operating daily in both directions, with most of the ride during daytime hours.
The next step would be a daily Sunset Limited. Of course that’s probably unlikely because it would make perfect sense.