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County commission voices support for Amtrak

By Stephanie Nelson

The Brewton Standard

The Escambia County Commission Monday voiced its support of restoring passenger rail service in Atmore.

In January, Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) announced an Atmore stop on a tour to examine new ideas for intercity passenger rail service. The goal of the trip was to examine the existing CSX railroad infrastructure and to better understand the rail’s economic, cultural and mobility opportunities. A number of locals, as well as corporate officials, rode the train from New Orleans, La., to Atmore, as it made stops in Bay St. Louis, Miss., Gulfport, Miss., Biloxi, Miss., Pascagoula, Miss. and Mobile before coming to Atmore in February.

Since then, locals have waited to hear whether or not the service would add Atmore to the list of Amtrak stops.

Amtrak stopped picking up passengers along the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

In 2015, the Southern Rail Commission commissioned Amtrak to evaluate potential service restoration along the route. The study produced five options, with SRC choosing the one to operate a daily, state-supported train round trip between New Orleans and Mobile, and extend the City of New Orleans train route from New Orleans to Orlando, Fla., daily. The proposed service would be an extension of the Chicago, Ill., service. It is estimated the route would generate an annual ridership of 153,900 passengers and would require an annual operating funding commitment of $9.49 million, according to Amtrak’s survey.

Officials said the option is feasible because the four states the service runs through — Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida — would split the $2.5 million cost of having Amtrak return each year.

The commission voted to send a resolution of support to SRC Chairman Greg White.

In other business, the commission:

• appointed Sharon Davidson to fill the unexpired term of Bernie Wahl on the Escambia County Healthcare Authority.

• approved the list of errors, insolvents and litigations for the 2016 tax year;

• approved a $785 agreement for a state department of emergency management personnel grant;

• ratified oil and gas trust investments of a $170,000 City of Huntsville general obligation warrant at .75 percent interest set to mature Sept. 1 and a five-year, 1.75-percent $245,000 brokered certificate of deposit with Wells Fargo Bank.