March 29, 2023

Baton Rouge to New Orleans Passenger Rail Sees New Progress

Baton Rouge to New Orleans Passenger Rail Sees New Progress

The effort to reestablish the passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has recently been reignited thanks to a decision by federal regulators to approve a merger between Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific, as per this article from

Recently, the United States Surface Transportation Board approved Canadian Pacific’s $31 billion acquisition of Kansas City Southern, meaning that this deal would allow Amtrak to add passenger service on the KCS-owned line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board said that keeping the agreements to allow Amtrak access to the Louisiana line and a Canadian Pacific-owned line between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario were included in the conditions for approving the merger.

John Spain has been a longtime advocate for passenger rail service and he is also the executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. Spain spoke about the recent progress by saying, “it was a big, big day. That was probably the last significant decision we were waiting on. Now we’re talking to the partners about where we go from here.”

As of now, the new rail line, Canadian Pacific Kansas City, is expected to be created as soon as April 14th. And though Amtrak has already announced that it wants to add Baton Rouge to New Orleans as one of its new passenger services, the next step in the process is to secure funding for the service.

For over a decade, area economic development officials have supported a passenger rail connection as a key way to help foster growth in the region. That being said, the largest expense in bringing the project to reality is the fact that the 1.8-mile wooden rail bridge over the Bonnet Carre Spillway, where trains currently creep at 10 mph, would need to be replaced, costing an estimated $108 million, would be the largest outlay. The price tag for that work has slowly increased over time; a study from 2014 estimated it to be $62.1 million.

To aid in funding 80% of the cost of replacing the bridge and enhancing railroad crossings, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has submitted grant applications to the federal government. Also, the state has submitted an application for a grant that would cover the majority of the costs of running the train service for the first six years of its existence. This grant would essentially cover 90% of the cost of operations for the first year of service before dropping down by 10% over the next five years. This is meant to help to subsidize the expense of operating the service while the customer base builds in number.

In a joint statement from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and GNO Inc, they called the decision to approve the merger “a powerful, and long-overdue, commitment to link Louisiana’s two largest population centers via passenger-rail service.”

Matt Wolfe, a spokesman for GNO Inc, said that the sheer fact the Canadian Pacific committed to offering passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in late 2021, long before the Kansas City Southern deal was finalized, says a lot about how important the project is to the company. Wolfe went on to say, “this is not a half-baked idea. Canadian Pacific had a strong commitment to it and they’re being held to bring it into service.”

The proposed service would make stops at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Gonzales and LaPlace, and the Electric Depot on Government Street and in the Bluebonnet-Essen-Perkins medical district in Baton Rouge. It would come to an end at the Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans, which is close to the Caesars Superdome.

For more Louisiana-related articles, click here.

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