Gulf Coast, Florida advocates hope to restore Amtrak service lost since Katrina

August 28, 2015

It’s been a full decade – 10 years – since Amtrak’s Sunset Limited ran its full route east of New Orleans into Orlando, Florida. While the CSX Transportation tracks east of New Orleans suffered heavy damage, CSX quickly restored the route to service i9n a matter of a few months, and notified Amtrak the track was ready again for passenger train service so the Sunset Limit could operate its full route.

Several stations, including the Mobile, Alabama station were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The Mobile station, a 1950s-era building of no architectural consequence built by the former Louisville & Nashville Railroad, was removed, and not replaced. Other stations were damaged, but have since been rehabilitated by their local town owners. The majority of stations and passenger train platforms remain, ready for service.

For a full decade, since the first post-Hurricane Katrina timetable issued by Amtrak, a version of the following statement (as it appears in the current Amtrak timetable) has appeared on the Sunset Limited timetable: “Modified Amtrak Service for the Sunset Limited: The Sunset Limited service between Orlando and New Orleans has been suspended. Future service has not been determined.”

The Sunset Limited is a national system Amtrak train; it has never been the responsibility of any state to assist with the operating costs of the Sunset. The train has never been discontinued, only “suspended.” Amtrak has had the ability to reinstate this train when it chooses to, despite the call for a second study to determine the ability of the train to be restored. Both studies have been mandated by Congress in Amtrak authorizations. – Editor


Transportation advocates are hoping to convince Amtrak to restore rail service on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Florida that has been dormant since Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago.

Trains on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited route, which used to run between Los Angeles and Orlando, have ended in New Orleans since the 2005 storm, which wiped out tracks along the Gulf of Mexico.

A provision in a multiyear transportation bill that was approved in July by the Senate would provide funding for a study of the feasibility of restoring the service, which used to make stops in Alabama and the panhandle of Florida before it headed south to Orlando.

Advocates of restoring the dormant Gulf Coast Amtrak service are hoping to win support for the language in the House when lawmakers return to Washington in September.

“The Senate has passed a very good bill that does two things: It creates a $100 million fund for states to access for services which were annulled (Sunset Limited) or under threat of downgrading of discontinuance (Southwest Chief),” a group called Friends of Sunset Limited to Florida wrote in a Facebook post as the Senate was approving the highway bill, which is known as the DRIVE Act, in July.

Read reporter Keith Laing’s full story in The Hill by clicking here.


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