News & Reviews News Wire City of Mobile sends lease for Gulf Coast stop to Amtrak

City of Mobile sends lease for Gulf Coast stop to Amtrak

By Bob Johnston | November 6, 2023

| Last updated on February 2, 2024

Land at site of former station will be used for platform, siding

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Two women holding signs supporting Gulf Coast Amtrak service
Amtrak supporters in Mobile, Ala., show their desire for New Orleans service during a February 2016 visit by a Gulf Coast inspection train, stopped at a platform once used by the Sunset Limited. The layover track and new platform will be in the parking lot area visible behind the women. Bob Johnston

MOBILE, Ala. — After months of waiting for completion by city of Mobile attorneys, an agreement has been sent to Amtrak for a land lease that would provide a stop for two daily passenger round-trips to New Orleans.

The delay in finalizing the agreement, sent to Amtrak last week, is one factor that has pushed the start of the Gulf Coast service into 2024 [see “Gulf Coast service awaits Mobile station track …,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 9, 2023].

The news site reports the lease still must be approved by the Mobile City Council at a meeting tentatively set for Nov. 14. Construction of a layover track — needed so trains do not occupy the CSX Transportation main line —and a platform can’t begin until lease details are accepted by Amtrak and CSX.

Illustration of passenger platform and shelter
A consultant’s rendering of platforms and shelters at the Amtrak stop in Mobile, Ala.

The downtown land, along with CSX property once owned by predecessor Louisville & Nashville, has been part of a parking lot adjacent to a main-line platform at the site of the former Mobile station. The station building, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, had served Amtrak’s triweekly Los Angeles-Florida Sunset Limited.

Previous service under Amtrak included the Mobile-Birmingham, Ala., Gulf Breeze connection to the Crescent operating between 1989 and 1995, and two different iterations of a daily Mobile-New Orleans Gulf Coast Limited round trip that ran for several years in the 1980s and 1990s until support was alternately withdrawn by Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama. The Southern Rail Commission has since formed a strong multi-state alliance with long-term commitments from politicians, states, and Amtrak.

Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant work by Amtrak is readying intermediate Mississippi station platforms for service at Pascagoula, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis.

Meanwhile, SRC Chairman Knox Ross tells Trains News Wire that discussions are underway between Amtrak and CSX on executing agreements for more than $223 million in mutually agreed-upon capacity improvements for the Mobile-New Orleans corridor. A Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety (CRISI) grant approved by the Federal Railroad Administration will supply 80% of the funds [see “$178 million in CRISI grant awarded …,” News Wire, Sept. 21, 2023]. The remainder will come from a match by Louisiana, Mississippi, CSX, Norfolk Southern, the Port of Mobile, and Amtrak.

“Now that funds have been obligated, plans and specific construction projects can move forward,” says Ross. “International travel consultants have told us that with twice-daily rail service, they expect Mobile to be a natural magnet to tap an estimated 750,000 pre-pandemic New Orleans annual visitors. With the station centrally located near a vibrant downtown and cruise port, this will be a great boost for the city of Mobile to reach its full potential.”

14 thoughts on “City of Mobile sends lease for Gulf Coast stop to Amtrak

  1. Charles, did you enjoy the scenic ride through the junk yard Amtrak had to make to access its River Road Amshack ?

  2. Charles, that reminds me of the time I went to Florida from Chicago to visit my now-late uncle. Rode the Capitol CHI-WAS connecting to either the Meteor or the Star. But I has decided to be adventurous on the return and booked passage on whichever of the NY trains that connected at JAX with the Sunset and the approved same-day connection with CONO at NOLA. Well #1 got hammered by CSX freight traffic and all the passengers connecting to CONO were vanned from Biloxi to Hammond, LA. I called my wife from Hammond station saying “I’m in Hammond” knowing she wouldn’t right away pick up on that CONO doesn’t go through Hammond, IN. Then I said “Hammond, LA”.

  3. “Previous service under Amtrak included the Mobile-Birmingham, Ala., Gulf Breeze connection to the Crescent operating between 1989 and 1995.” This seems like a logical extension of the upcoming NOL-Mobile passenger train, with intermediate stop in Montgomery. Anyone know how this service performed, ridership, etc.?

  4. If Im not mistaken, the Sunset Limited did operate between Orlando and Los Angeles but Hurricane Katrina of 2005 wiped out most of the right of way and a major bridge over the Mississippi River thus severing the Sunset Limited operating into Florida. The Sunset Limited was cut back running between New Orleans and LA. and of course ony 3 times a week. Any train that only runs three times a week or less or even once a day daily is not going to make money for Amtrak and of course not be able to attract or grow new ridership For Amtrak to begin operations into Mobile is a first positive step but so much more work needs to be done. Running trains into Mobile should be a big boost for tourists and travellers and establish handy links and transfers from the cruise ships that pull into Mobile and with Amtrak. There can even be package plans created where you can take a cruise one way and the train back another way. It works in Alaska with the cruise ships and the Alaska Railroad so it could work in Mobile with some good marketing skills and plans
    Joseph C. Markfelder

    1. While these developments are occurring, let’s remember that on July 11, 2023, the Surface Transportation Board announced that it was opening an investigation into the poor on-time performance of the Sunset Limited.

      Dr. Güntürk Üstün

    2. Things may have changed since I took the ride but, Alaska Railroad and the cruise ships run an end to end operation. Cruise ship to Stewart Alaska RR to Fairbanks or reverse. Most people fly into or out of Fairbanks and the cruses can stop or end in Vancouver, BC, Canada or several several US ports.

  5. A visitor arriving in Mobile for the first time could naively mistake the imposing convention hall as the head house to the railway station track and platform upon disembarking from the train.

    1. Not until Jacksonville gets it acts together on a new Amtrak/Brightline station. Any “Sunset” oriented train has to do a backup move to reach the Amshack on New Kings Road.

    2. Oh yes, John Rice, the Amshacks. Cincinnati, Ann Arbor, Richmond, Jacksonville. Of these, Ann Arbor’s was actually located where you’d want to find a train station of that city. Some of the other Amshacks, lost behind the arse end of nowhere.

      In the 1970’s, I actually found Cincy’s Amshack in the hours of darkness, though I’d never been in that city nor ever studied a map of it. God knows how.

    1. Don’t know, Mike. Do you think it would’ve been a good idea? As opposed to separate trains connecting (hopefully if on time) at NOLA.

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