News & Reviews News Wire Mobile stop remains an obstacle to resumption of Gulf Coast service

Mobile stop remains an obstacle to resumption of Gulf Coast service

By | September 26, 2023

City must agree to lease, and to operating agreement covering Amtrak support

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aerial view of land along railroad tracks near water
A CSX train with Union Pacific power passes the parking lot at the former Mobile, Ala., station site, where a new station for Amtrak Gulf Coast service could be built. The old station was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A lease agreement for the site must be completed before the Gulf Coast service can be launched. Bob Johnston

MOBILE, Ala. — Agreements regarding a lease for a station stop in Mobile, as well as an operating agreement that will include costs the city will cover, are significant details that must be addressed before Amtrak can launch Gulf Coast passenger service between New Orleans and the Alabama city, the news site reports.

“We’re not putting any pressure on them,” Southern Rail Commission Chairman Knox Ross told the news site regarding the work that still needs to be done in Mobile. “But it’s the last check in the box.” Otherwise, he said, “everything has been done to run the train.”

Monday’s official confirmation of the $178.8 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant addressed most of the physical work needed to upgrade the Gulf Coast route, but does not include the Mobile station. Under a deal reached in 2022 — most of which remains confidential — CSX agreed to build a new station track in Mobile, allowing trains to stop there without blocking its main line [see “Grant seeks almost $179 million …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 16, 2022]. But that project requires a lease agreement with the city.

City spokeswoman Candace Cooksey told that the initial plan calls for an ADA-compliant platform at the station site — the same location where Amtrak’s Sunset Limited used to stop, although the station there was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina — with CSX and Amtrak to work on a permanent platform and other upgrades in the future. “But all of that is related to the land-use agreement. Those details are being worked out, and simultaneously, we have to work out the details of an operating agreement,” Cooksey said. The operating agreement would set the costs the city would contribute toward the route’s costs over the first six years. There is no timeline for completing those agreements, Cooksey said.

David Clark, an Alabama representative on the rail commission, there are some concerns over the costs Mobile will pay to support the train. The Mobile City Council had approved $3 million of support over three years in 2020, but that agreement expires in 2024, and such Restoration & Enhancement grants now call for six years of support.

12 thoughts on “Mobile stop remains an obstacle to resumption of Gulf Coast service

  1. Yes I will admit that I got off track on that last post and I will apologize if indeed we got off our favorite subject but it was something that I had to say. However lets leave all the political discussions and issues for other platforms to be discussed on. Let us stick to our favorite subject and hobby which is railroading and trains. It is that interest and hobby that provides an escape from the troubles and issues of the real world and should unite us all regardless of political views or any party affilliation even if only for a short time and escape. and the same goes for all our model railroaders out there who also contribute to this column.
    Joseph C. Markfelder

  2. Hey all,

    I wasn’t advocating for the elimination of Social Security. I think it is a great program and look forward to partaking of benefits shortly. My point, which others have picked up on, is that looking at Amtrak from a subsidy or tax spending aspect is absurd given the miniscule role passenger rail plays in our overall Federal budget.

    FWIW, my solution for social security is to raise the salary amount subject to tax from the current $160k or so to perhaps $300k. I believe this one step would make the program fiscally sound for another generation.

    As for sports stadium subsidies, I agree with Charles (not something I often say!)—it’s an absurd use of public revenues to support billionaires. My hometown of St Louis is the poster child for what can happen; we spent a boatload to lure the Rams here and then a few years later, were jilted when LA lured them back. Now we have debt and a useless stadium (sold to us as a convention plaza). These stadium plans are also fraudulently marketed. Claims that tons of money will suddenly be pumped into the local economy, ignores the fact that those of us that rely on a paycheck, have a limited amount of money to spend on entertainment. If we take the family to a new sports team in town, we won’t spend the money elsewhere.

    OK, apologies for getting us “off the track.”

  3. I have been reading this most interesting debate going on between Steven and Charles and while both gentlemen have made great arguments and I respect their opinions to express them which is the right of all Americans to express them, I do take issue with the comments made by Steven about Social Security and Medicare eating up the Federal budget. These two programs are a sacred trust between the Federal government and the American people that assures them of something to look forward to when they arrive at that glorious day when they can retire and enjoy whatever remaining years they have in life. Even now plenty of readers of Newswire are either retired and receiving their hard earned benefits or folks working now who are looking forward to that day when they can retire. People work all their lives for these benefits and are making those contributions each payday and deserve what they earn, save and pay for. It is also the responibility of the Federal government tp make sure and guarantee that both Social Security and Medicare are fully funded and kept in good order and remain solvent and never face the threat of running dry. There are plenty of other options and ways to save money. I do agree with Charles that no federal money or funding should be given for any museums, private ventures and especially sports venues. The owners of these sports teams are either very wealthy capitalists or the teams are owned by mega corporations. My view is that you want a new stadium build it yourself and buy the land with the money you make from the fans and people coming into your stadium to see your team play. That is how it was done years ago when teams and owners wanted new venues. They built it with their own money and funds. And the same goes for entertainment venues as well. Let’s spend money and fund what is really necessary and benefits our hard working citizens not greedy and filthy rich millionaries and vassals and servants of Wall Street who try to control and dictate economic policy and influence both private and public interests
    Joseph C. Markfelder

    1. Interesting comments all.
      I agree that funding should be greatly restricted (if any) to sports venues, etc. but museums? Museums, libraries, etc are for the public good. Public funds allow for all economic levels of our nation to access them. Sports stadiums, not so much. Subsidies to oil companies and such, not so much.
      Amtrak? A viable and comprehensive system, affordable by all is for the common good of this nation. It needs support.
      This is such a small part of our national budget that it is laughable that some of us are challenging it instead of some of the large chunks taken out by our Military (congress actually demands the military develop and build at great expense weapons of war even the military doesn’t want.) Challenge those funds.
      Food Stamps, family support, etc. are to pathetically small to worry about.

    2. I understand what your are saying Allen. But it is time that the monies going into the Social Security Endowment fun are made untouchable by politicians who see it as a place to raid to fund their own pet projects and President Obama did when he literally stole (by executive order) 750 billion dollars from the SSEF to pay for his catchall insurance program, that has basically been a flop. By doing so he changed the “run-out date” from the 2050’s to the mid 2030’s.

      These funds should be immediately paid back by freezing the federal budget for one year. There is no need to continue to raise the budget limit so that the Democrats can keep spending. Either we do that or allow Senior American retirees or new contributors to Social Security to put their own monies in private 401K or other federally guaranteed instruments and then they can preserve their own retirement situations. The interesting thing is that is was a Democratic President (FDR) who created Social Security as a pension for seniors and a Democratic congress that began dipping into the endowment to fund their pet projects. Some one needs to TURN OFF THE TAP IMMEDIATELY. Joseph, you are absolutely correct!!!

  4. Hey Charles,

    Please excuse my last post which was a bit too ad hominem.

    I enjoy your postings and it is clear that you also care deeply about Amtrak.

    Obviously I am frustrated that a very few people can bring the entire Federal government to a standstill for their own ideological purposes.

    The analogy to Amtrak’s travails in trying to restart this gulf coast service is clear—Amtrak is being thwarted by a few folks based on their own bias.

    This is not how a Federal Government should work and it is not how a national railroad should run. Imagine if the Interstate system required the buy in of every local town before it could be built.

    As for Governor Walker, I continue to believe he wasted huge sums building and then abandoning the Wisconsin Talgos which were left to rust away and breaching the state’ s signed contracts which also cost Wisconsin a pretty penny. It was extremely short sighted and he is no model of fiscal responsibility if you want to include the Foxconn fiasco.

    Anyway, have a good day.

  5. Ah yes, Charles, our daily dose of Republican outrage–who will pay?

    Shall we talk about the real drivers of spending: social security, medicare, military spending, veteran’s benefits and tax policy–oh no, these items are all off limits? Instead, let’s shut the government down over food stamps for starving children or the cost of hamburgers on Amtrak.

    You’re a quack doctor telling us that we (the American people) can lose weight if we only give up parsley on the side of the plate. You have no credibility until you address the real items that are adding to our weight gain.

    Eliminating Amtrak entirely (Fed, State & local support) would probably not even be noticeable when we step on the scale (a rounding error on the national budget) so please stop with your feigned outrage over spending.

    1. Steve — Thanks for you post. But you don’t know my position on some of the items you mentioned. So you ought not assume.

      I have opposed corporate welfare of all kinds. I have also opposed government grants for museums, art projects, community groups, and – ESPECIALLY — sports venues.

  6. CHRIS —- You’ve had your say about Governor MeeMaw. Whatever. Now to complete the story you have begun to tell, please add up all the various and numerous capital subsidies for this train (tracks, stations, rolling stock etc.) from all sources state local and federal.

    Then add the ongoing operating deficit to the capital recovery.

    If you’re still in favor of the train having analyzed those numbers, that’s fine. Your opinion is your opinion and it’s as valuable as anyone else’s opinion. Just as long as you tell the whole story.

    When you have stated all those numbers, perhaps you would realize why some people are against this service. They too are entitled to their opinions, just as much as you are to your own. That includes Governor MeeMaw.

    1. Let’s look at reality. I’ve never been to Alabama, I live in Wisconsin. The Hiawatha (which I patronize now and then) has an operating subsidy paid by federal, Illinois and Wisconsin taxpayers. Capital costs? Every station is new or rebuilt: Chicago, Glenview, Sturtevant, MKA Milwaukee Airport, MKE Milwaukee downtown. All these stations are gorgeous and functional. Someone paid. Not the people who buy tickets because the tickets don’t even cover the cost of day-to-day operations above the rail.

      To add another train pair Chicago to Milwaukee, CPKC wants money for track improvements. MKA would need to be converted from one platform to two. Meaning a footbridge with stairs and elevators on each end. (Now, all Hiawathas, WB and EB, operate on the WB track only, from Hwy 20 in Racine County to downtown Milwaukee), severely restricting capacity on both of CPKC’s tracks.)

      That’s the Hiawatha. A second LD train pair, Chicago to the twin cities, CPKC wants a bunch of money to improve its single-track railroad west of Pewaukee (in Waukesha County).

      We haven’t even gotten to the pie-in-the-sky Madison train which then-Gov. Scott Walker was wise enough to kill. Part of the route was abandoned decades ago. The costs of track improvements in Madison, and a Madison station, would be through the roof. All that for a train which crawls through the indirect route in Milwaukee’s western suburbs where I live but was falsely sold as “High Speed Rail”.

      So, folks, we can advocate for trains all we want. Someone has to pay for them, just as someone has to pay for Essential Air Services which are an economic joke. That’s why people like Alabama Gov. Mee-Maw has a different opinion than some of us who comment on this site.

  7. I live here in Mobile County and our Governor MeeMaw has been the spearhead of anti Amtrak government here in Alabama. And at least two of the Commissioners here in Mobile are following the party line in opposition. If Amtrak were smart they’d stop the train in Pascagoula, MS just across the state line. It’s only a 35 minute drive from Mobile. There’s a wye there that could be used to turn the train negating the need for a locomotive on each end. When Alabama and Mobile finally if ever decided to come up with the money then and only then would I extend the train to Mobile. I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen it this bad before with the far right fanatical politics.

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