The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, GNO Inc., and the SOLA Super Region Committee are calling Wednesday’s approval of the Canadian Pacific Railway and Kansas City Southern merger the “most important step forward” for creating the long-proposed passenger rail link between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
“The Surface Transportation Board decision specifically cited that CPKC has committed to supporting Amtrak’s plan for expanded passenger rail service, and that this helped win Amtrak’s endorsement of the merger,” the joint statement said.
The groups also pointed to Amtrak’s national statement on the announcement, which said that CP “has committed to support Amtrak’s efforts to work with the Southern Rail Commission, states and other stakeholders for … establishing Amtrak service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.”
Last week, at the Southern Rail Commission quarterly meeting, representatives from the state’s transportation department updated stakeholders about federal funds the state is pursuing for the project.
The state has hired consultants to begin the federally required environmental studies for the route and has also submitted a grant application for funding to help replace the Bonnet Carre bridge.
The project, which could top $260 million, already has a few funding sources. The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in 2021, supplied funding for Amtrak to further its 15-year corridor vision plan, including the proposed passenger rail between the Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Last year, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves’ office announced that the Baton Rouge-to-New Orleans rail project would receive $20 million in federal funding for real estate acquisition, design and construction of the Baton Rouge and Gonzalez train stations. The $20 million RAISE grant represents only a portion of the $36.95 million Baton Rouge and Gonzales have jointly sought in federal funding for the stations. Including local matches, the total cost for the two stations would be $46.6 million, as reported in a past Daily Report.
The Legislature last year also approved $12.5 million in unspent federal American Rescue Plan dollars to provide service between Baton Rouge and Sorrento.