The Southern Rail Commission hosted a press conference this afternoon at the Gulfport Train Depot to announce results from a study analyzing the economic benefits of introducing a passenger rail service to the Mississippi Coast.
Southern Rail Commission has been a leading advocate in reintroducing a passenger rail service to the Gulf Coast. Now, officials with the organization say there is only one more approval needed to make the passenger rail a reality. Southern Rail Commission Vice Chair Knox Ross said, “Sort of our last step in Mississippi is having the governor commit funds to match the federal and Amtrak funds to make this a reality.”
Ross tells News 25 that Amtrak has committed to contributing $5 million to the project. “With the new leadership at Amtrak they have put us in the direction of a train between Mobile and New Orleans, they believe in it, that’s what they wanted.”
Southern Rail Commission partnered up with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Trent Lott National Center who conducted a study outlining the economic growth the railway service would have on Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.“The study reveals that based on the different country analysis that it is a no brainer, I mean, this brings a huge influx of tourism and business dollars to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
The report estimates the service’s return on investment to be between $64 million and $525 million annually, depending on the increase in tourism. Research Professor Dr. Yuanyuan Zhang said, “What we found is that the construction, renovation, and operating input will give you a very positive impact to your community.”
Eighty-five miles of this route would cross the Mississippi Gulf Coast, according to SRC this will provide new jobs, economic development opportunities, improved connections for residents and additional travel options for tourists. “The time is now, it’s just one of those things, the time is now.”