From Louisiana Association of Railroad Passengers (LARP), newsletter for March/April 2006:
Minnesota Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran has reportedly gotten interted into a bill a provision that would buy out the CSX freight line along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Their reasoning is that by removing the railroad completely, it will help to revive the economy along the battered Gulf Coast. If this passes, the SUNSET LIMITED will obviously never run east of New Orleans anymore, and with CSX freight traffic diverted permanently over the Norfolk Southern mainline as it was for 6 months following Hurricane Katrina, timekeeping on the CRESCENT will suffer indefinitely. The good news is that opposition to the buyout provision is starting to develop.
Amtrak is exploring running service over the Kansas City Southern Railroad between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Should this service come to fruition, there would be multiple trips every day. A lot of improvements will need to be made, since there are many speed restrictions along the route between the two cities that would result right now in a 2-1/2 hour trip. About $50 million would be needed to cut the running time down to two hours. It is not known where the funding or the equipment would come from. Amtrak did run a test train in early April, so that is a positive sign that a solution can be found to the chronic traffic congestion that has developed since the hurricane hit the area last summer.
A full sleeper has returned to the SUNSET LIMITED for the full route between Los Angeles and New Orleans. Right after the storm, only the transition dorm was providing sleeping space for paying passengers. Also, two sleepers are again running on the CRESCENT. For a while each consist only had one sleeper, so that a protect set of equipment could be stationed in New Orleans whenever terrible delays brought the southbound train into NOL too late to be turned as a northbound.
Several LARP members used the CRESCENT between New Orleans and Atlanta to attend the NARP Region 5 meeting. Both trains were delayed due to freight congestion: Northbound 45 minutes, and southbound 3 hours.
It is estimated that streetcar service on the St. Charles line will return in the second half of 2007. Some of the green cars now being used on the Canal and Riverfront Lines will be returned home to the St. Charles line at that time. Unfortunately, the Canal cars will cost about $1 million a piece to be rehabilitated. FEMA is subsidizing New Orleans RTA operations for now, although that will end on June 30th of this year. Ridership on the streetcars and bus routes in the area continues to be very low due to changed riding patterns following the hurricane.
Baton Rouge, whose population has soared at the expense of New Orleans, had considered building light rail, but they have now shifted their sights to bus rapid transit. LARP disagrees with this move, since highway traffic congestion has worsened since Katrina, and buses would get caught in the same traffic as automobiles.
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