Approval of railroad merger ‘a big, big day’ for Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger rail

Approval of railroad merger ‘a big, big day’ for Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger rail

A decision on the grant awards could happen by the end of the year, Spain said.

For more than a decade, area economic development officials have touted a passenger rail connection as a key way to help foster growth in the region.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and GNO Inc. issued a joint statement Thursday, calling the decision to approve the merger “a powerful, and long-overdue, commitment to link Louisiana’s two largest population centers via passenger-rail service”.

The fact that Canadian Pacific committed to offering passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in late 2021, long before the Kansas City Southern deal was finalized, says a lot about how important it is to the company, said Matt Wolfe, a spokesman for GNO Inc.

“This is not a half-baked idea,” he said. “Canadian Pacific had a strong commitment to it and they’re being held to bring it into service.”

The proposed service would include stops in Baton Rouge at the Electric Depot on Government Street and in the Bluebonnet-Essen-Perkins medical district; in Gonzales and LaPlace; and at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, with a terminus at the Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans near the Caesars Superdome.

A passenger train has not run between Baton Rouge and New Orleans since 1969, when Kansas City Southern’s Southern Belle service was discontinued. Restarting the service has public support, according to a 2019 poll of voters in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. James and St. John parishes that found 63% would be interested in riding the line.

Bringing back passenger rail service is a physical embodiment of the unity economic development officials are trying to create between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, as well as a solution to the region’s transportation infrastructure issues, said Adam Knapp, BRAC president and CEO.

The next steps are the state, Canadian Pacific and Amtrak all determining when service will begin, what sort of infrastructure improvements need to be made and signing partnership agreements between all of the parties, he said.


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