Daily Amtrak service: 24 months away?

Daily passenger rail service between New Orleans and Mobile could begin in 24 months, thanks to a $33 million grant announced today by Sen. Roger Wicker.

The $33 million will join the $30 million in pledges the Southern Rail Commission has assembled to make the $60 million in rail improvements needed to accommodate passenger rail service.

Service could begin in 24 months, rail advocates say.

“This is outstanding news,” said Biloxi Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich. “Can you imagine getting off the train in downtown Biloxi, at the only multi-modal transit center between New Orleans and Jacksonville, be blocks away from casino resorts and thousands of hotel rooms, a revived downtown, a ballpark and tons of our entertainment opportunities. That’s all going to be happening at the same time.”

The plan, says longtime rail advocate John Robert Smith, is to have a train running from New Orleans each morning and another leaving Mobile each morning: “Those trains would cross and return, meaning you would essentially have four trains a day. This is a huge, huge win.”

In Biloxi, where Coast Transit constructed the Biloxi Transit Center years ago, passengers will see a new rail-side platform constructed immediately north of the Biloxi Transit Center, which is across Esters Boulevard from the CSX railway. City Engineer Christy LeBatard said the city would use a grant and local funds to build a 15-foot by 350-foot concrete platform, which would be covered and lit.

The transit center now houses a restaurant, ticket counters, restrooms, and local and long-distance ground transportation.

“Many of the pieces of the puzzle were already in place for us,” Gilich said, “and this funding announced by Senator Wicker puts this entire initiative on track to happen. It’s been a great team effort between the Southern Rail Commission and our federal partners, the working group that Senator Wicker established. The potential is exciting and real.”
See Senator Wicker’s announcement
See the Southern Rail Commission’s announcement
Gallery: Amtrak Whistle Stop, February 2016
See the Amtrak study of options, December 2016
See the Southern Rail Commission website

Shuckers have five games of fun

The Biloxi Shuckers open a five-game homestand this evening, hosting the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Games will continue daily through Tuesday. The pivotal division clash will continue the Seafood Buffet Rivalry Series, feature fireworks, a giveaway, Saints Hall of Fame Night and Military Appreciation Night.
Read Garrett Greene’s five-game preview

News & notes: Council, CTA free ride day, weather

Council: The next scheduled meeting of the Biloxi City Council is set for Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at Biloxi City Hall. To see the council agenda and supporting documents, click here. The council, incidentally, also will meet June 18. A previous Bmail incorrectly said Tuesday’s gathering was the last meeting of the month.

Free ride day: The Coast Transit Authority will offering free rides all day on any CTA fixed bus route on Thursday, June 20. To see the media release, click here.

Local weather: Rain and thunderstorms are expected throughout the day and weekend.  To see the latest weather advisories, click here.