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Mobile dims chances for Amtrak renewal on Gulf Coast

Leaders in Alabama’s port city of Mobile are dimming chances for reviving passenger train service along the northern Gulf Coast.

Member of the City Council’s finance committee withheld support for funding service through Alabama’s port city during a meeting Tuesday. Al.com reported the full council could vote on the issue next week.

Amtrak hasn’t operated along the coast since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Southern Rail Commission supports restarting passenger trains between Mobile and New Orleans with stops in Mississippi.

Louisiana and Mississippi have approved funding to restart the trains, but Alabama hasn’t. Officials at the Alabama State Port say passenger trains could disrupt freight service through the port, and city leaders including Mayor Sandy Stimpson have expressed concerns.

“There is a lot that needs to be explained before I can support it,” said council member Joel Daves, chairman of the finance committee.

Mobile is being asked to commit as much as $3 million over three years to pay for Amtrak service starting in 2023, when Amtrak service is expected to resume.

The city commitment doesn’t include potential capital costs to upgrade the existing rail line. An additional $2.2 million is needed from an Alabama-based source to finance those improvements, but Gov. Kay Ivey isn’t backing the project.

Mississippi has dedicated $15 million, Louisiana has approved $10 million and Amtrak has set aside $6 million toward capital improvements along the rail line. The project faces a deadline of Feb. 5 for getting local funding to match federal funding.

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