Wicker: Gulf Coast Line Is Essential to National Passenger Rail Network

Miss. Senator Highlights Importance of State-Supported, Long-Distance Routes Following Last Week’s Historic Rail Inspection Trip

February 23, 2016

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today chaired a subcommittee hearing on “Passenger Rail: Opportunities and Challenges for the National Network.” The hearing highlighted local, state, and federal efforts to strengthen performance of state-supported and long-distance passenger rail routes.

“There is strong support in the Senate for an efficient national passenger rail network,” Wicker said. “Our work to restore service on the Gulf Coast promises to create jobs and improve people’s quality of life. I believe we can make safe, on-time, profitable passenger rail work for the Coast and for taxpayers.”

Pelahatchie Mayor Knox W. Ross, who also serves as Secretary-Treasurer of the Southern Rail Commission, testified at the hearing, along with Amtrak CEO Joseph H. Boardman. The Southern Rail Commission, a member of the Gulf Coast working group, seeks to promote public safety, economic growth, and emergency preparedness along the Gulf Coast rail corridors.

Last week, Wicker participated in the Gulf Coast rail inspection trip, the first passenger train to operate on the line since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the area in 2005. The trip, which began in New Orleans, La., made several stops in Mississippi before continuing on to Florida. Those stops included Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. Wicker rode the Amtrak train from New Orleans to Pascagoula.

In 2015, Wicker and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced a bipartisan measure to improve passenger rail safety, reauthorize Amtrak services, and improve existing rail infrastructure. The bill, “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” established the Gulf Coast working group with Mississippi representatives to study the return of rail service from New Orleans to Orlando across our Gulf Coast. It was passed unanimously out of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in June and contained in the “Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill,” which was passed by the full Senate on July 30.