OUR OPINION: Passenger rail service could change Vicksburg for the better

Published 8:00 am Friday, March 11, 2022

When it was formally announced this week that the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen both signed letters supporting the expansion of passenger rail service through Vicksburg and the Interstate 20 Corridor, residents clearly jumped for joy.

The response from readers on social media was surprising, with many stopping to offer their virtual support for the project.

According to Amtrak itself, the rail service’s “vision for the future is a modern passenger rail network that creates more than half a million jobs and delivers over $150 billion in economic benefit to impacted local communities by 2035.”

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Why shouldn’t Vicksburg, and more of Mississippi as a whole, get a piece of that pie? In examining Amtrak’s current routes, the proposed Meridian-Jackson-Vicksburg-Monroe-Shreveport-Dallas system will serve a crucial gap in the railway’s lines. Currently, there are no Amtrak lines that run from West-Central Mississippi through North Louisiana and onto Dallas, but there are plenty of people who travel the route routinely via car or plane.

Vicksburg’s railroad history goes back to Dec. 19, 1831, when the Clinton &Vicksburg Railroad, the first chartered railroad in Mississippi, was formed to build a 30-mile rail line between the Red Carpet City and Clinton. Although it’s been more than 55 years since the last passenger train rolled through, there’s no better time than the present for passenger rail service to begin again.

Because the proposed path from Atlanta to Dallas is over the 750-mile threshold, expanding passenger rail service to include Vicksburg would be paid for at the federal level, costing state and local entities very little as a whole.

The federal infrastructure bill will also help cover some of the expenses when it comes to completing and maintaining the project.

While this project is in its very early stages —the letter of support is merely consent for Amtrak to conduct a study determining the feasibility of a passenger line traveling through the area — it bodes well for our city and region as a whole.