Alabama could prevent the return of Amtrak line

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Federal money is coming to Alabama, but Gov. Kay Ivey is not so quick to put her hand out.

Southern Rail Commission and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) announced recently the award of a $33 million grant for improvements to a coastal rail line. The move is supposed to prepare southern states including Alabama for the return of Amtrak service in the next 24 months. The service would run between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala.

Ivey, however, wants to know more facts before committing state dollars to it, most notably what the potential impact would be to the Port of Mobile. The service in Louisiana and Mississippi is expected to be more superior than the service in Alabama, which unlike its neighboring states does not have dedicated funds to execute the upgrades to the rail line.

“While the grant may be a kickstart, we still need to see what the long-term implications would be, both positive and negative, to the Port [of Mobile] which has been the focus of a lot of efforts, and money, in recent months and years,” Ivey said in a statement.

Ivey did not authorize support of the project last year because the timing just wasn’t right. Alabama’s commitment to the rail project is estimated to be about $2.7 million.

The Alabama State Port Authority has no interest in seeing the Amtrak line. The Authority’s CEO, Jimmy Lyons, believes it would interfere with business activities. In order to be more competitive, the Port of Mobile is getting ready for a ship channel enlargement project that is financed through the state thanks to a 10-cent-per-gallon fuel tax increase that will be phased in over three years. Railroad improvements were not included in the funding measure.

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