WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today testified at a hearing of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consider Amtrak’s application to restore passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast along rail lines between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. Wicker has been a longtime advocate for restoring passenger service to the Gulf Coast, which was halted after Hurricane Katrina struck Mississippi in August 2005.
“For the Mississippians who lost a transportation option along with so much else to Hurricane Katrina, this case is not an abstract policy question. It's about continuing and completing the recovery,” Wicker said. “Freight and passenger railroads must work together to achieve benefits for both elements of rail transportation along the Gulf Coast.”
Amtrak is seeking an order to require CSX Transportation, Inc. and Norfolk Southern Railroad to allow additional intercity passenger trains, consisting of two round-trips per day, over the companies’ rail lines between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. In his testimony, Wicker noted that the law favors Amtrak’s petition.
“I'm confident that the Gulf Coast Rail Corridor can accommodate passenger rail service. Clearly, it ran before Hurricane Katrina. And I appreciate that the existing rail infrastructure may impose certain limitations, but I want to emphasize that this endeavor is not a zero-sum game,” Wicker said.
In a round of questions from the members of the STB, Wicker touted the economic benefits of restoring passenger service and federal funds that could help boost capacity and minimize the impact of additional passenger rail service along the freight rail lines.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law… includes historic levels of federal funding that can be used to benefit both freight rail and passenger rail. And in addition, there are a number of investments for freight movement in and around ports, supporting another vital element of the supply chain,” Wicker said.
To see Wicker’s statement of support for Amtrak’s petition, click here.