Efforts to bring passenger train service back to the Alabama Gulf Coast could get the green light or be sidetracked tomorrow with a decision by the Mobile City Council. The council is scheduled to decide if the city will commit to pay up to three million dollars for Amtrak. The money would be spent over three years to support the rail service to Mobile if passenger trains roll to New Orleans. That leg of the system is scheduled to start in 2023. Supporters say a passenger rail connection would be a major boost to the local economy. Some officials, however, have expressed concerns about the potential costs, the need for a new train station and possible interference with freight operations at the nearby Port of Mobile. The last regularly scheduled passenger train to Mobile, the transcontinental Sunset Limited, discontinued service in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina damaged tracks in Mississippi. Louisiana and Mississippi have agreed to provide the financial support needed to build passenger stations and improve tracks. Alabama has not committed to paying part of the costs.
Editor's Note: The Federal Government has extended to deadline for Mobile's decision to January, 26. That's when the city now plans to hold its vote. Pat Duggins, News director