August 16, 2012

FRA awards $100K grant for Ala. rail study

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) obligated $100,000 in response to an application from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs to study the restoration of Amtrak passenger rail service between Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile.  

The study will include a cost and ridership analysis, stakeholder outreach and planning to assess the feasibility of service between Birmingham and Montgomery. Birmingham and Montgomery local governments will contribute an additional $100,000 total for the study. The results of the analyses will determine whether it is feasible to also extend the study to Mobile and proceed with the preparation of a Service Development Plan, environmental review and preliminary design.

The anticipated passenger rail service would connect to the existing Alabama portion of the Amtrak Crescent Route at Birmingham and possibly to a future route between Mobile and Florida, now under discussion among Amtrak and several Gulf Coast mayors. That service, previously known as the Amtrak Sunset Limited, was discontinued in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.

“Solid planning and thorough analysis is the foundation for successful rail projects,” said Deputy Federal Railroad Administrator Karen Hedlund in a speech to the Gulf Coast Mayors Summit. “Rail corridors rarely stop at state lines, and it takes a team effort of governors, mayors, legislators, advocacy groups and policy makers coming together to establish a clear vision.”   

The funding is from the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009.

The FRA and its 32 state partners continue to make significant progress on High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program-related projects across the country. With $10.1 billion in federal funding, they’re moving forward with 153 projects, laying the foundation for a 21st Century passenger rail network.

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