MONROE – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) spoke Nov. 3 at a stakeholder meeting to discuss extending passenger rail service along the I-20 corridor, which runs through North Louisiana.
Thanks to Cassidy’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), there is potentially money available to help fund the project. The rail line would bifurcate the existing Amtrak Crescent line service in Meridian, Mississippi to Dallas with stops in Shreveport, Ruston and Monroe.
“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill has made it possible to have an AMTRAK route in North Louisiana connecting our cities with Atlanta and Dallas. This conference included Federal officials and state and local leaders from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas,” said Dr. Cassidy. “ It demonstrated to AMTRAK and to the Federal Railroad Commission that Louisiana is committed.”
In 2015, an Amtrak feasibility study was conducted showing that a long-distance passenger rail connection could operate profitably over existing railroad infrastructure along the I-20 corridor. Additionally, another study in 2017 said that less than $80 million is required as an initial investment between Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Both Canadian Pacific and Amtrak have announced plans to conduct a study that would help finalize a cooperative agreement to operate the passenger train for the I-20 corridor over track currently owned by Kansas City Southern. Canadian Pacific has offered to acquire Kansas City Southern, and a decision on the proposed acquisition is expected from the Surface Transportation Board in early 2023.
The IIJA has several funding sources from which stakeholders can apply, and the Louisiana Legislature has already appropriated $10 million for an extension of long-distance Amtrak service in north Louisiana. Additionally, the IIJA created a Corridor ID program under the Federal Railroad Administration to identify and develop new or improved intercity passenger rail services. Cassidy himself met with Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner and stakeholders in New Orleans on October 18 to discuss the project.