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Amtrak Officials Tour the Gulf Coast

Posted at 4:39 PM, Apr 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-12 14:32:16-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Amtrak officials are continuing their tour of the gulf coast updating the public on the potential return of rail service.

Tuesday, residents in Live Oak learned more about Amtrak's plans to restore service between Jacksonville and New Orleans.

The "Sunset Limited" route was suspended in 2005.

From Live Oak to Chipley, residents and local officials have shown strong interest in bringing back Amtrak.

Today, officials were in Marianna to share more about the progress.

Last year, a special train rolled through Tallahassee bringing hope to many.

Wednesday, Amtrak continued pushing for support.

"What we're talking about is new Amtrak service that's going to run daily from Orlando to Jacksonville, then Jacksonville across the panhandle to New Orleans," said

Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman.

Loraine Walker wants service back soon. She's taking the train to California this summer but has to drive to New Orleans to catch it.

"It's very frustrating, because I had to call New Orleans, find a hotel I could book at, find out how much they were going to charge me for parking while I'm on the train," said Walker, a Marianna resident.

Walker was in Chipley last year, cheering on Amtrak to bring service closer to home.

"They're pushing it forward, and I'm really happy about that," said Walker.

If service is restored, Amtrak says it will use existing stations like here in Chipley. Officials say stations in Florida are in good condition, but more work needs to be done.

"Are they ADA compliant?" said Magliari. "What's the shape of the platform? Those kinds of things."

The Gulf Coast Working Group was to submit a report last September, but leadership changes at Amtrak and CSX Transportation have delayed things.

"You just can't plop a train onto a track and have it run it well," said Magliari. "We want to do this right, and doing it right takes time."

Local officials are hopeful Amtrak will not only return but boost local economies.

"We want the ability for our citizens to take advantage of it, and that's what today is all about," said Scott Maddox, a Tallahassee City commissioner, "to show these folks that we support passenger rail in Tallahassee."

"It's just another tool in the toolbox that would be available to us to attract economic and community development," said Jim Dean, Marianna city manager.

The President's budge calls for eliminating overnight train routes, which would include this one. Regardless, Amtrak says it will continue to work with the Gulf Coast Working Group, which should have a report ready in a few weeks.