February 29, 2012

Group urging return of Amtrak's N. Fla. services

Tallahassee, Fla., and Leon County officials, joined by representatives from cities and counties throughout North Florida, gathered at the Tallahassee Amtrak station early this week, urging federal and state transportation officials to restore Amtrak passenger rail service between New Orleans and Jacksonville. The group called upon citizens to contact their state and federal elected officials and voice their support for restoring service to the region.

“Reestablishing Amtrak passenger service through North Florida will strengthen our local economies and offer new opportunities for our citizens,” said Tallahassee Mayor John Marks. “North Florida communities have waited nearly seven years for the restoration of passenger rail, and we respectfully urge Congress and the legislature to resume this service.”

There has been no Amtrak passenger rail service in North Florida since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused damage to part of the Sunset Limited Route from New Orleans to Jacksonville. Repairs enabled the restoration of freight train traffic; however, Amtrak has not reestablished passenger service along this portion of the Sunset Limited Route.

The federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 required Amtrak to submit a plan to restore passenger rail service between New Orleans, Louisiana and Jacksonville/Sanford, Fla., but the necessary steps detailed in this plan have yet to be implemented.

“As gasoline prices reach $4 a gallon, North Florida residents are seeking alternative modes of transportation,” said Tallahassee City Commissioner Nancy Miller. “Since Amtrak service is 30 percent more efficient than travel by car, rail transit should be an option for Tallahassee and other communities throughout North Florida.”

The State of Florida plans to spend $118 million to reestablish service from Miami to Jacksonville, yet there has been no further effort to resume passenger service for North Florida. In light of this situation, the following local governments and organizations have passed resolutions supporting the restoration of Amtrak service and the Sunset Limited Route:

City of Tallahassee; City of Madison; City of Pensacola; City of Marianna; City of Quincy; City of Perry; City of Live Oak; City of Milton; City of DeFuniak Springs; Leon County; Escambia County; Madison County; Franklin County; Wakulla County; Gadsden County; and Northwest Florida League of Cities/ Suwannee River League of Cities

The resolutions will be delivered to Governor Rick Scott and leadership within the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.

“Passenger rail service between New Orleans and Jacksonville is a strategically important component of the national intercity passenger train system,” said Robert J. Stewart, chairman of the National Association of Railroad Passengers. “This route segment will serve an unmet need by connecting Florida with the southern and western United States.”

For more information about the restoration of Amtrak passenger rail service between New Orleans and Jacksonville, please review Amtrak’s P.R.I.I.A. Section 226 Gulf Coast Service Plan Report.

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