Gilich encouraged by talk of new passenger rail service

Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich says he is encouraged by a new report by Amtrak that shows a number of scenarios where daily passenger service could return to the Gulf Coast.

“The most important thing about this Amtrak study is that is it an acknowledgement that daily passenger rail service for the Gulf Coast is viable,” Gilich said. “The daily service is something that Biloxi, the cities on the Gulf Coast and the Southern Rail Commission have advocated for years. This is about economic and tourism development across the Gulf Coast.”

The new study, which Amtrak completed at the request of the multi-state Southern Rail Commission, reviewed a number of options that would see the return of passenger rail service, which was suspended just before Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

Amtrak says extending the City of New Orleans line to Orlando would generate annual ridership of 153,900, and would include a funding commitment of nearly $10 million. An alternate line extension, providing daily round-trip service from Mobile to New Orleans, would cost $5.5 million and would attract ridership of 138,300.

Other options considered are two daily round trips from New Orleans to Mobile, and only one long distance round trip from New Orleans to Orlando.

“Regardless of the favored scenario,” Gilich said, “Biloxi and the Gulf Coast are directly in the path of the area being discussed, from New Orleans to Orlando.

“Here in Biloxi, we’re well-positioned. Our Biloxi Transit Center in our downtown has the waiting area, the ticket windows, the parking space, the cab service, thousands of hotel rooms a short drive or walk away, and, let’s not forget, MGM Park.

“This multi-model transit center is not where it is by accident. All we need is a good platform at the railway, and we’re ready to say ‘Welcome to Biloxi’ or ‘All aboard,’ depending on if they’re coming or going.”

Added the mayor: “The city knew this day would come, and it’s getting closer every day. You’re going to be hearing more and more about this in coming weeks.”
Read the complete Amtrak report