Happening Now

Parties Tell STB Gulf Coast Roadblocks Could Clear In May

March 15, 2024

By Rail Passengers Staff

Amtrak, Norfolk-Southern, CSX, and the Port of Alabama today told the Surface Transportation Board that most of the obstacles to the long-awaited and now Federally funded restoration of service between Mobile and New Orleans could be cleared by May.

Earlier this month a clearly frustrated STB ordered all four parties to file written clarifications by today over the status of Federal grants, environmental reviews, and Amtrak’s land-use agreement with Mobile, putting them on notice that the Board wants to see evidence of substantive progress.

In the four parties’ joint filing today to the Gulf Coast docket, we learned that Amtrak hopes to have terms worked out with the Federal Railroad Administration for its $178 million Gulf Coast restoration CRISI grant by May, which it would then turn over to the two host railroads – N-S and CSX – and the Port of Alabama.

In addition, streamlined reviews through a categorical exclusion process to Federal environmental protection laws should be finished in April.

Meanwhile, talks that began in 2021 continue with the City of Mobile over the required land-use agreement for the station and platform project. Amtrak also acknowledged that it has asked Mobile for a little more than $3 million – “which is the same amount the City of Mobile already approved in 2020” – to cover the first three years of restored service.

However, Amtrak explained in the Parties’ joint status report that Amtrak is not asking for any funds beyond the first three years or beyond what the City already approved in 2020.

They’re hoping the City Council will schedule a vote on the land-use agreement and on the payment sometime in April or May. However, that would once again put the fate of this nationally significant project in the hands of seven Mobile City Council members – five of whom would have to approve it all over again.

The parties told the STB they would file another status report to the docket by May 1 updating the situation.

Read or download the joint status report by using the STB’s records-search function here, and searching in Docket FD 36496.