Passenger rail from BR to NOLA tentatively scheduled for mid-2025
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A high-speed passenger train from Baton Rouge to New Orleans could be closer than you think. Leaders said the funding is in place and the service is tentatively scheduled for mid-2025.
Adam Knapp with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber said they polled people in both metros and every parish along the way. Most have been unanimously in favor of the passenger rail.
He said one of the biggest challenges is that historically, the rail operators, the companies that own the tracks have not necessarily been willing as partners to have these conversations.
Now multiple organizations are on the same track and Knapp said the project is moving forward.
“I think a lot of folks have heard about this for a long time,” said Adam Knapp, President and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “They’re like, ah, that’s not going to happen in my lifetime. And the reality is, it could happen in the next two years. And that’s what we all need to be focused on is making sure that local elected officials from Baton Rouge to New Orleans and every parish in between, remain excited about it, continue to talk about it.”
The passenger rail will start with two trips a day in the morning. Folks can go from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, or Baton Rouge to New Orleans, or any of the cities in between, and then go home in the afternoon. Leaders think that routes will be added each day in the future.
John Spain with the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and leader of the project said there’s federal money as the Biden administration set aside $60 billion for a new intercity passenger rail service. Recently, Governor John Bel Edwards added $20 million of local money that will provide the local match requirements.
That will build a new bridge over the Bonnet Carre Spillway, improve crossings, and allow the train to run at 90 miles an hour.
Spain said that about 10 years ago, they started looking at the passenger rail because of congestion on I-10. They wanted to look at another way of bringing people out of harm’s way following Hurricane Katrina and realized they could use passenger trains as evacuation trains to bring large numbers of people out when we have a storm.
He added the service could start in the next 18 to 24 months.
So where can you find the rail?
There are two stations in Baton Rouge. One is on Government St at 15th Street, where the old train station used to be. The second one would be in what officials call the health district. The idea is that if you are going to evacuate people from hospitals, south of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, they can be brought to the health district if necessary.
“All the studies have been done so we know what improvements need to be made. So the state department of transportation, the same department that runs highways will run this train. And the studies have said here the types of improvements that need to be made,” said John Spain, Senior Advisor of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. “The federal government pays 80% of all the improvements of the state and puts up their matches. Governor Edwards has now done and so the improvements will be made. Amtrak will enter into a contract with the state. So Amtrak will actually run the train and a contract with the state.”
He said on a normal day the rail will move thousands of people each day between the state’s two largest cities.
There’s a study in the works that will extend this service to north Louisiana. It’s not funded yet, but it will reveal if any improvements need to be made.
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