Return of The Sunset Limited Passenger Train On The Horizon

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The Sunset Limited line once ran as America’s one and only transcontinental railway, stretching from Los Angeles to Miami. Due to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina disaster, the line was severely damaged. Although it was repaired to again accommodate freight traffic, passenger service was never reinstated.

But that may all be about to change.

On February 18th and 19th, Amtrak conducted an inspection tour of the CSX-owned railways and associated infrastructure. The goal of the tour was twofold: to inspect infrastructure conditions, and to gain a more clear understanding of the rail’s possible effects on economic growth and cultural development along the Gulf Coast.

The Pulse reports that the 550 mile, one-way inspection tour transported over 250 distinguished passengers and media from New Orleans, LA to Jacksonville, FL. The train included an inspection car featuring a rear-facing floor to roof glass window, offering views of the passing countryside, conditions of train tracks, and conditions of correlated infrastructure.

The tour left New Orleans on Thursday, February 18th and made Mississippi stops at Bay St Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula, and Alabama stops at Mobile and Atmore. The following day the tour continued in Florida, departing from Pensacola and making stops at Crestview, Chipley, Tallahassee, Madison, Lake City, and ended in Jacksonville.

The turnout from local communities has been described as “overwhelming”. Residents turned out in droves as the Sunshine Limited pulled into their local Amtrak Stations, sending a loud and clear message: there is resounding support for the restoration of the Sunset Limited!

Next City reports that political support for the restoration of the Sunset Limited line is also non-partisan.

Even with such broad interest and support surrounding the topic, the restoration of the Sunset Limited line still has some major hurdles to surmount. Namely: funding. If a maintainable funding strategy can be developed, officials are hopeful full service will resume within four years.

With that said, it truly is up to individuals and communities to continue rallying support, and to make their elected officials aware of the importance of the return of this service through concerted efforts.

The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) will be announcing a call to action to receive feedback from communities about the potential return of this service. Downtown South will update this story once it receives this information from SRC. 

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