By Bonnie Culverhouse
After more than a decade of discussion and planning, travelers will finally be riding the rails of the I-20 corridor in the near future.
According to the Coordinating & Development Corporation, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed into law November 2021, allowing a major appropriation of some $66 billion for Amtrak and passenger rail in the National Network.
“The Corridor Council also obtained $738,000 in federal funding for a feasibility study, carried out by Amtrak and completed in 2015, as well as a capacity study completed in 2017,” said CDC President Jack “Bump” Skaggs. “This helped determine the economic viability of the route and the funding needed for infrastructure improvements.”
The Amtrak route will come across north Louisiana, specifically through Sibley in Webster Parish, on tracks once owned by Kansas City Southern.
“They sold the tracks to Canadian Pacific, and they are the ones pursuing it now,” said Sibley Mayor Jimmy Williams.
CDC is asking all municipalities along the corridor – Dixie Inn, Sibley and Minden – to pass a cooperative endeavor agreement resolution with Canadian Pacific to allow Amtrak to pass through the area.
“It won’t stop in Sibley or maybe anywhere close by,” Williams said.
Skaggs said the proposed long-distance passenger rail route is from Dallas/Fort Worth to Atlanta in the south. The impact won’t be economical to the towns along the route, but it will have benefits.
“It’s more of a quality of life impact,” Skaggs said. “It allows a relative on the other side of the country to get within potentially 30 miles of visiting their relatives.”
However, if an industry springs up near a stop, “then the job creation for your community could come from a bedroom community because the commute could be zero,” he added.
Theoretically, he said, someone at a stop could catch a train to Dallas, Texas, work the week and ride the train home for the weekend.
Skaggs said the Amtrak-Canadian Pacific project has two phases.
“They are not ready to discuss where the stops are going at this point,” he said. “They just want everybody onboard that we all agree we want an Amtrak line running through the I-20 corridor.”
The next step is to gather the data from Canadian Pacific’s study of rail times and speeds.
“They will get that to the feds to approve the line through the corridor,” Skaggs said. “Once that happens, the local community can start negotiating who gets a stop and who doesn’t.
“We need a united front to even have an opportunity to get a stop,” he continued. “Once we have the line approved, then stops will be determined.”
Skaggs also said Amtrak is not ready to discuss a timeline just yet.
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