With the railway owner, governor and Amtrak on board, many of the puzzle pieces needed for a passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans appear to be in place.
Canadian Pacific Railway Senior Vice President James Clements on Wednesday, Dec. 8, announced that the railway is committed to the establishment of passenger service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Clements joined Gov. John Bel Edwards, Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson, and local officials Wednesday morning to discuss the next steps.
Clements says Canadian Pacific Railway plans to work with passenger service provider Amtrak to open a CP-owned track to one round trip per day; increased capacity could be accommodated depending on available funding sources. However, the merger between Kansas City Southern and CP, which is under regulatory review, must be finalized first. As of right now, the transaction is anticipated to close late next year.
A vast expansion of passenger rail funding is included in the recently passed federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, offering $66 billion in total for railway and other projects. The IIJA will supply funding for Amtrak to further its 15-year corridor vision plan, which envisions routes accessing additional communities and specifically identifies passenger rail between the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros as a service corridor.
Passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has been studied extensively, according to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. A poll conducted of 1,050 registered voters from Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. James, and St. John parishes in February and March of 2019 found that 63% of regional residents say they would use the service.
The SoLA Super Region Committee, a partnership between BRAC, Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the South Louisiana Economic Council, has long advocated for passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans as a priority for economic competitiveness. According to BRAC, Wednesday’s commitment by CP advances this regional effort.