USM study shows Amtrak to bring possible $485M economic input in MS

There’s an old proverb that says it’s not just about the destination, but the journey you travel and the stops you make along the way.

That’s what many South Mississippi leaders, business owners, and job hopefuls are counting on when it comes to Amtrak’s plans to restore passenger rail service back to the Gulf Coast with a route from New Orleans to Mobile within the next year.

People from all walks of life lined the streets of Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula to show their support during a test run back in February 2016 by Amtrak to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast including former Governor Phil Bryant.

Fast forward five years later and efforts to roll this service back out is gaining steam with Amtrak’s recent announcement that they’re working with others, laying the groundwork to fully restore passenger service twice daily on a route from New Orleans to Mobile with four stops in Mississippi in between.

An economic impact study says this may be just the boost our state and region needs. Coastal Mississippi CEO Milton Segarra said, “The results of the study by the University of Southern Mississippi are very encouraging in regards to restoring the railway system to our three coastal counties-not only because of the economic impact of more than $485-million dollars and the possibility to add 7,000 new jobs, but it’s also a fundamental opportunity to keep increasing visitors to our Coast.”

Business owners from Pascagoula to Bay St. Louis to Biloxi are on board, saying more traffic will parlay into more business and more jobs for the local economy. The Meeting Place Owner and Operator Geneva Dummer said, “I think more foot traffic is exactly what downtown Biloxi needs. I think it will ramp up potential for residential in addition to commercial businesses here in downtown Biloxi, and I look forward to all of it.”

Coastal Mississippi’s CEO says the new service would roll in benefits not just for South Mississippi’s coastal cities and downtown areas, but would also better connect our area with neighboring states. “Not only for tourism, but as well as for economic development, you should have a hub for transportation-not only the air service we have-all the transportation we have now, as well as the Port and now having this train service, it’s going to be great. It’s going to allow us to be competitive and to bring very important visitors from Mobile and New Orleans, which are two very important sources of visitors here for us here on the Coast. I think this will work tremendously and is something we all should support and make sure it happens.”

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