Vicksburg, Warren County agree to seek railroad grant with Louisiana cities

Published 3:14 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The possibility of passenger rail service for Vicksburg took one more step Tuesday with an interlocal agreement between the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the Warren County Board of Supervisors to join three Louisiana cities in seeking a grant to establish service.

The Board of Supervisors has already approved the interlocal agreement, which authorizes the city and county to each contribute $35,000 to participate in seeking the grant, City Attorney Kim Nailor said. The city board’s decision came at its meeting Tuesday.

Vicksburg and the county are partnering with the Louisiana cities of Monroe, Shreveport and Ruston to bring the rail service from the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, area along the Interstate corridor to Meridian. The cities are seeking a Federal Railroad Administration Federal-State Intercity Passenger Rail Program grant for the project.

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The grant provides money to improve the performance of passenger rail services or expand or establish new intercity passenger rail services, including privately operated intercity rail services. According to the Federal Railroad Administration website, about $4.6 trillion is available through the grant.

The board in February authorized Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to sign an agreement with the Louisiana cities in a joint effort to get the rail program money.

The cities contracted with Baton Rouge, La.-based consultant CSRS to prepare the grant application.

During a recent three-day trip to Washington, D.C., Flaggs attended a meeting of Transportation for America, a lobbying group that is trying to get support from congressional delegations for expanded passenger rail service in the country.

“It’s on the fast track, it’s on fast for the future so I feel real good about it,” Flaggs said of the passenger rail service.

Flaggs said after the board meeting that Transportation America officials were getting letters of intent from congressional delegations in areas under consideration for passenger rail service.

“From what I understand, it went real good,” he said, adding Ruston city officials will present the grant application to the FRA.

The move by Vicksburg and the Louisiana cities to seek funding was influenced by Louisiana’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program that envisions potential Amtrak passenger rail service for Vicksburg.

The program is part of the Louisiana 2020 Rail Plan developed by the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to guide the state’s freight and passenger rail service planning and project development for the next 20 years. The plan was prepared to meet requirements under the federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to qualify for future funding for rail projects.

The board in November approved a resolution supporting the program, which includes a North Louisiana Passenger Rail Plan calling for passenger rail service from Dallas-Fort Worth to Meridian with stops in Shreveport, Monroe, Vicksburg and Jackson. There is already a passenger service from Meridian to Atlanta, Ga.

According to the Louisiana 2020 plan, Amtrak explored the possibility of service from Meridian to Dallas-Fort Worth in the 1990s. The proposal involved splitting the Crescent, which presently runs from New Orleans to New York with stops in Meridian, Birmingham, Ala., and Atlanta to establish an east-west route to Dallas-Fort Worth.

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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