News & Reviews News Wire Gulf Coast grant application details planned infrastructure projects

Gulf Coast grant application details planned infrastructure projects

By Bob Johnston | December 24, 2022

New Gentilly Yard bypass, four siding extensions among work to accommodate Amtrak service

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View of railyard from passenger car
Amtrak’s 2016 Gulf Coast inspection train passes Gentilly Yard on the track that received signals as part of the 1993 extension of the Sunset Limited to Florida. A new bypass of the yard is part of the work to be covered by the CRISI grant for improvements to permit Amtrak Gulf Coast service. Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — A new 13,500-foot bypass around CSX Transportation’s Gentilly Yard in New Orleans and four siding extensions — three in Mississippi and one in Alabama — are among the 12 projects that would be funded under a grant sought by Amtrak to upgrade the route between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., for Gulf Coast passenger service.

A non-profit news organization, Mississippi Today, previously reported on financial aspects and some other details of the project’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant application, which it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request [see “Grant seeks almost $179 million …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 16, 2022]. Given a large number of such requests, Amtrak has now released the 54-page primary document on the FOIA portion of its website, allowing a look at the details of the infrastructure work that would be included. (A number of attachments, including the schedule and project budget, are not included.)

The improvements are part of the agreement reached in November by Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and the Alabama State Port Authority to allow Amtrak to launch the Gulf Coast operation [see “Amtrak, freight railroads say they have a deal …,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 22, 2022]. The parties have kept details confidential, but told the Surface Transportation Board some conditions for its completion “are not entirely within the parties’ control” — which may indicate the deal is contingent on receiving the grant funding.

New tracks, extended sidings

Map showing location of planned infrastructure work in New Orleans area
Infrastructure work in the New Orleans area to be covered by the CRISI grant for Amtrak Gulf Coast Service. Amtrak

The addition of the Gentilly Bypass west of Main Track 1, according to the application, would “avoid potential delays from CSXT switching operations that require use of Main Track 1.” This would actually be the second attempt to expedite passenger movements through the yard; Amtrak and the state of Louisiana paid to add signaling to a main track on the yard’s north side when Sunset Limited operations were extended from New Orleans to Florida in 1993 [see “STB Gulf Coast hearing, Day 2 …,” News Wire, April 5, 2022].

Siding extensions on CSX’s NO&M Subdivision, to be funding by the grant and accompanying $44 million in matching funds, include:

Map showing location of planned infrastruture work on passenger train route in Mississippi and Alabama
The locations of planned infrastructure work elsewhere on the Gulf Coast route. Amtrak

— An approximately 4,700-foot extension to the 9,000-foot Claiborne siding in Pearlington, Miss., with the addition planned from the current north end of the siding at milepost 766.3 to milepost 765.3.

— An extension of up to 6,800 feet of the 7,930-foot Beauvoir siding in Biloxi, Miss., extending south from the current end of siding at milepost 731.9 to milepost 733.1.

— An extension of up to 4,500 feet at the north end of the 8,910-foot Orange Grove siding in Gulfport, Miss., with the extension from milepost 701.1 to milepost 699.3.

— Extension of the 10,395-foot Brookley siding in Mobile, Ala., to a planned Mobile station track, an addition totaling 14,100 feet and creating a section of second main line. Double crossovers would be included at the north end of the extension. The planned 3,000-foot station track, where Amtrak trains would board and disembark passengers, as well as lay over, is not part of the grant application.

— Some 1,400 feet of new lead and 4,100 of refurbished track at the Virginia Street Lead in Mobile, connecting CSX’s Choctaw Yard and Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks facilities at Garrow’s Bend. This is intended to improve access to the intermodal container transfer facility and McDuffie Island Coal Terminal, reducing the possibility for conflicts with Amtrak trains.

Other work to be included

Other track and station improvements are also part of the application. They include:

— New power turnouts to replace hand-throw switches at the Theodore Industrial Park wye in Theodore, Ala., mileposts 679.5 and 679.2.

Trains on three tracks as seen from bridge
A westbound Norfolk Southern train passes two stopped trains on congested Back Belt trackage in New Orleans on Dec. 12, 2021. Three new sets of crossovers will be constructed here as part of work to be funded if a CRISI grant request is successful. Bob Johnston

— Three sets of new crossovers on Norfolk Southern’s Back Belt in New Orleans: near milepost 5.2 north of Bayou St. John, which will allow Amtrak trains to use Track 1 more often to and from New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal; at Elysian Fields, milepost 7.0, allowing movements from either NS to main line to either line of the CSX NO&M Subdivision; and at Terminal Junction, milepost 7.6, allowing movements from Norfolk Southern Mains 1 and 2 to Oliver Yard or NS’ NO&NE main line.

— Improvements at five stations: At Biloxi, a small station building, new platform, and roadway improvements; at Pascagoula, Miss., a shelter and platform canopy, with possible acquisition of the former station, currently leased for non-transportation use; at Bay St. Louis and Gulfport, Miss., new platform canopies; and at Mobile, a new station platform.

— Removal of five grade crossings west of Bay St. Louis to allow use of an existing second track as a passing siding, and upgrades to four crossings and possible removal of another in a 20-mile stretch between Gulfport and Biloxi.

The application anticipates the projects would be complete within three years “upon obligation of the grant.”

 

9 thoughts on “Gulf Coast grant application details planned infrastructure projects

  1. With all the public $$$ going to improve CSX’s ability to run trains 13,000 to 14,000 ft trains past each other, and three sets of double crossovers in the NOLA terminal, the secret contract or whatever the deal is should include substantial and escalating penalties for trains running more than 5 minutes late at each station.

  2. Not the siding extensions. Norfolk Southern and CSX have always maintained their lines are maxed out. Good to see Amtrak finally come to it’s senses and work to address those issues via these grants.

    Will be interesting to see what happens if they get the grants but Montgomery balks and ponying up $ for it’s portion.

  3. Mr. Lustig, there was no sabotage. The plan didn’t have funding and it looked highly unlikely it ever could secure the funds needed.

  4. At least we’re finally getting progress on the gulf Coast project now that there are actual grants and projects coming up. Maybe the Sunset Limited could be brought back to Jacksonville or Orlando, and once again have it be a true coast to coast passenger train.

  5. I think he meant the Sunset. BUT it would be interesting to extend the City to Orlando. Another way from the Midwest to Florida.

    1. Mike Lustig What plan are you referring to? I am sure there are future plans for expansion to Orlando and west to Baton Rouge.

    2. The plan I’m referring to must have been forgotten by all. When Amtrak ran the test train from New Orleans east, it ran thru to Florida. Amtrak came up with various scenarios of restoring service New Orleans to Orlando.
      The plan most feasible was to extend the City of New Orleans to Orlando instead of the Sunset Limited and run the CofNO daily east. That was the plan if i remember correctly and the Mobile trains were in addition.
      Then Richard Anderson came along and sabatoged the plan and it has never been mentioned since

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