Travel & Tourism

Coast cities get funds for passenger train platforms. Is rail service next?

Officials from the Southern Rail Commission announced Monday more than $1.1 million in grants for improvements to passenger platforms and depots in Biloxi, Pascagoula, Gulfport and Bay St. Louis in an effort to bring passenger rail service back to the Gulf Coast.

The funds are from the Federal Railroad Administration. In addition to the four cities in Mississippi, grants also were made to communities in Louisiana and Alabama. The total award is for $2.4 million across the three states.

In December 2015, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which established a working group focused on reaching an agreement on capital construction and schedule requirements to restore passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast.

“Interest in re-establishing passenger rail service has grown steadily over the years,” Sen. Thad Cochran said in a press release. “Restoring this service would be an asset to the overall transportation options available on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for economic and tourism interests.”

The commission said the improvements were “investments based on faith” that the rail service would follow.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes welcomed the funds to dress up downtown for a passenger rail.

“When the train came through, we knew there was an option, or opportunity, Amtrak may come again through our area,” he said. “And now with this money that’s been made available, we can dress out more of our downtown, specifically with Gulfport’s historic depot.”

Here’s the breakdown on improvements in each of the cities:

▪ Biloxi: $497,000 for passenger rail platform and pedestrian access connecting to transit station nearby. Southern Rail would contribute $252,000.

▪ Pascagoula: $1,300,764 for improvements to restore the historic train station. Southern Rail would contribute $659,543.

▪ Gulfport: $370,277 for construction of a new platform canopy with lighting, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements, sidewalk improvements and landscaping. Southern Rail would contribute $190,000.

▪ Bay St. Louis: $100,000 for canopy improvements, track-side improvements and ADA-compliant access. Southern Rail would contribute $55,000.

The funds would be matching, with cities picking up the remainder of the project price. In addition, $150,000 as added for administrative costs and another $64,500 for contingency. will update this story.

Amanda McCoy: 228-896-0551, @AMcCoyPhoto