Jackson County

Southern Rail commissioners evaluate Gulf passenger rail trip

Coastswide party shows support for Amtrak

Mississippi Gulf Coast residents welcome Amtrak at depots in three counties during a trial run on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.
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Mississippi Gulf Coast residents welcome Amtrak at depots in three counties during a trial run on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016.

OCEAN SPRINGS -- Success with the Gulf Coast passenger rail trip last month continues to resound in federal departments and in the halls of Congress, a Southern Rail commissioner said Friday at a follow-up meeting on rail service in Ocean Springs.

Knox Ross, secretary for the commission and mayor of Pelahatchie, said the trip was in many ways valuable to the effort to restore passenger rail service along the northern Gulf.

"The crowds were there," Ross told the group. Another commissioner commented, "the flags got bigger at every stop."

The Amtrak passenger test trip went from New Orleans to Jacksonville, a route that existed before Katrina.

Ross said, "What you saw were all these places that want an opportunity to connect with the rest of the nation."

He said, the trip boosted the effort in stature with Amtrak and Washington.

"It demonstrates the power of the people," he said. "People want it ... The transportation staff in D.C. can draw on it ... They've seen it. They see we're serious."

Ross, who testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on the issue, said something like this "gets done with people right here pushing" and he thanked mayors in Coast cities for their efforts.

He told the group that what's next is looking at expanding the Southern Rail Commission to Florida and Texas and working on a report from a working group, created by a recent transportation bill, to study restoration of the Gulf Coast Rail. They have nine months.

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