SURRATT: I’m ready to ride that train

Published 4:00 am Thursday, November 24, 2022

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen took a big step forward by putting its support behind the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s effort to secure federal funding for Louisiana’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program.

Now some might think the board’s action foolish; maybe even insane. I don’t.

Passenger rail travel is one of the most underrated and ignored (at least in our area of the country) forms of transportation. It has the potential to help eliminate some of the nation’s transportation issues and might even prove a boon to our tourist industry. And given the city’s railroad history, it’s a great fit.

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What helped the board’s decision to back Louisiana’s plan is the prospect of passenger train service from the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, area to Meridian with a stop in Vicksburg. As Ward 2 Alderman Alex Monsour pointed out, being in a rail corridor would allow people to commute by rail from Louisiana to Vicksburg for work and allow people to attend sports events like Dallas Cowboys football or Atlanta Braves baseball games.

“It’s going to connect people from Atlanta, Ga., to Dallas, Texas, and beyond,” he said. “We’ve just been a little section (that) couldn’t get Amtrak and they said they were going to do this. It will help us tremendously.”

Now for the full disclosure. I would like to see a passenger rail service come to the area because I like trains and I like traveling on trains. I guess I may be one of the few of my generation who remembers traveling on a train. That was back in 1965 when some rail lines still had passenger service. I took the train with my mother, brother and sister to Houston, Texas, for my paternal grandmother’s funeral.

Many years later, I was fortunate enough to ride Union Pacific steam engine 8444, which was going to the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans, from Alexandria, La., to Addis, La. In 2012, I rode Amtrak’s Crescent from Meridian to Atlanta to visit family.

The train trip to Atlanta was cheaper than flying. It took about the same amount of time it takes to drive because of the stops, but I didn’t have to fight traffic; I could stretch out and relax and get up and walk around. Try doing that on a plane.

The whole experience was enjoyable and I would like to do it again. The only complaint had was there were no safe places around the station in Meridian for me to park and leave my truck, but then I knew that in advance after having worked four years in Meridian back in the 1990s.

We need a good passenger rail system in the U.S. and it’s been talked about for years. It’s time for the powers that be to get off their rears and do it.

I hope Louisiana gets the money for its rail plan and Vicksburg gets its stop. I may not be there to see it, but I hope it comes. It can make our city so much better.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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