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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana is a step closer to connecting its capital city to New Orleans via a revived train line.
Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed a service development agreement that will advance the return of intercity passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, about an hour-long commute.
The agreement, signed Thursday, is a breakthrough for a project that has been in the works since 2008.
“All eight years I’ve been governor, I’ve been working to reestablish rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” Edwards told WBRZ-TV.
According to the agreement, passenger service could start as early as 2027. The plan is to start with one round trip a day. More rides will be added as riders increase. Along the route, passengers can expect stops in Gonzales, Laplace, and Jefferson Parish.
“An Amtrak line connecting Louisiana’s capital to the largest metropolitan area in the state will have immense economic benefits for both cities and the parishes in between,” Edwards said in a news release. “Not only will this service potentially reduce the number of vehicles on the roadways which will result in less congestion, but it will also connect communities through employment opportunities and allow for more transportation options for festivals, sporting events, and concerts.”
A $20 million settlement from the Road Home Program is helping fund the project, reviving the passenger train service that stopped running in 1969.
“This project is just one of many ways Louisiana infrastructure is moving forward,” said Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Eric Kalivoda. “This will serve commuters and also expand tourism opportunities by providing a safe, reliable transportation system.”
“In poll after poll, here in Louisiana and nationally, when given the option to take a train rather than drive, the public wants Amtrak and passenger trains as a travel choice,” Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Stephen Gardner said.
The proposed route is scheduled to take 75 to 90 minutes. Amtrak will release schedules and fares closer to the launch of the new service.
Amtrak will use tracks currently in place and owned by Canadian Pacific Kansas City and CN railways. The tracks run along the I-10 corridor connecting New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Infrastructure upgrades along the route will begin next year.
The new route will link the New Orleans to Mobile corridor projected to open in 2024, the governor's office said. These routes will join the Sunset Limited, City of New Orleans, and Crescent lines in Amtrak’s Louisiana route schedule.