Federal money will help restore Amtrak rail service


The Federal Railroad Administration has obligated $100,000 to study the restoration of Amtrak passenger rail service between Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile. {}The announcement was made Thursday. {}This commitment of money comes in response to an application from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.{}"Rail has the potential to ease congestion, spur economic growth and create jobs" said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. {}"President Obama's support for an America built to last is putting people back to work across the country building railroads, roads, bridges and other projects that will mean better, safer transportation and a strong economic foundation for years to come." {}The study will include a cost and ridership analysis, stakeholder outreach and planning to assess the feasibility of service between Birmingham and Montgomery. {}The U.S. Department of Transportation says Birmingham and Montgomery local governments will contribute an additional $100,000 total for the study. The results of the analyses will determine whether it is feasible to also extend the study to Mobile and proceed with the preparation of a Service Development Plan, environmental review and preliminary design.{}The anticipated passenger rail service would connect to the existing Alabama portion of the Amtrak Crescent Route at Birmingham and possibly to a future route between Mobile and Florida, now under discussion among Amtrak and several Gulf Coast mayors. {}That service, previously known as the Amtrak Sunset Limited was discontinued in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina.{}