New Track Delays Holding up Amtrak’s Gulf Coast Service

A northbound Amtrak train pulls into the Winter Park, Florida, station on February 11, 2012. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

(The Center Square) – Delays with new track in Alabama are being cited by Amtrak officials as the holdup for new service on the Gulf Coast.

The Surface Transportation Board at a Wednesday hearing ordered Amtrak, freight railroads, the city of Mobile and others to make a “detailed” status report in 30 days. Amtrak said an operating agreement for land use for a station with the city of Mobile has not been finalized.

Board Chairman Martin Oberman criticized Amtrak for taking 15 months to reach a negotiated settlement.

“Make some progress,” Oberman said. “We’ve got some people in this room that have done some fast legal work. Get it done. Many people are wondering when the trains will be running.”

At issue for Mobile is 3,000 feet of layover track that would allow shared track by Amtrak and CSX freight trains. While the Feb. 1 status report says that the Mobile project – funded separately from the other parts of the line by Amtrak – is the subject of a design and construction agreement by Amtrak and CSX, Amtrak officials when questioned by Oberman couldn’t offer a timeline for its completion.

In a Feb. 9 letter, U.S. Sen. Katie Britt, R-Alabama, said, “It has been and will continue to be of utmost importance that the return of Amtrak to the region does not impede operations at the Port, which is vital for the economy in all 67 of Alabama’s counties.”

— Steve Wilson, The Center Square

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