‘K10’ to focus on restoration of passenger rail service

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art’s “Katrina +10” retrospective will bring together a group of passenger rail authorities Wednesday evening to discuss the possible return of passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast.

The free event, titled “Y’all Aboard,” will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art, 386 Beach Blvd.

“Y’all Aboard” is being hosted by the Southern Rail Commission, which has developed an alliance of local elected officials, business leaders, and civic leaders across the Gulf States to support the return of passenger rail service.  While the Gulf Coast has seen its share of recovery from the devastating events of Hurricane Katrina and the BP Oil Spill, passenger rail offers the opportunity to connect growing economic centers while supporting the growing tourism industry, education institutions and job centers.

Panelists for “Y’all Aboard” will be Southern Rail Commissioner Michael Jackson, Amtrak’s Todd Stennis, Jim Mathews with National Association of Railroad Passengers, John Robert Smith with Transportation for America and Paul Nelson, MD., Pelahatchie (Miss.) Mayor Knox Ross, who is also chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, and Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.

“Mobility equals opportunity,” Ross said. “We must provide all of our citizens access to the opportunities our states and nation offers.  Passenger rail connecting the Gulf Coast is an integral part of providing that opportunity.”

The Southern Rail Commission has applied for a Federal Railroad Administration planning grant that would assess the feasibility of intermodal needs for restoring intercity passenger rail operations to a daily service along the Gulf Coast. The funds would be used to examine transportation gaps, determine the most advantageous station locations, capital needs, potential funding sources and prepare a final report that will recommend the restoration of passenger rail service from of New Orleans to Orlando, Florida.  If funded, this project would bring that service back better and stronger than it was before to support the growing economy along the Gulf Coast.

The passenger rail discussion Wednesday night is one of a series of conversations being held as part of the Ohr-O’Keefe’s “Katrina +10” retrospective, in which the museum uses dozens of panel discussions, luncheons and special events to examine the catastrophic destruction, sustained recovery, shared experience and progress as the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches.

The centerpiece of the exhibition, which has attracted more than 10,000 visitors since it opened March 20, is a moving, multi-media exhibition that tell the story of the Katrina experience from those on the front lines.

“Katrina +10” is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: adults, $10, with discounts for AAA, AARP, seniors, and military with ID; ages 6 to 17, $5; college students with ID, $5; children under 5, free. Group rates available. Call (228) 374-5547 or visit www.katrinaplus10.com.