Agreement in place for Baton Rouge-to-NOLA passenger rail, so what’s next?


Louisiana and Amtrak officials signed an agreement last week that lays the foundation for the resumption of passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Gov. John Bel Edwards says the state has secured $50 million to put toward improving the rail infrastructure between the two cities and is awaiting word on a $200 million federal grant. While the latter is not a done deal, Edwards tells Daily Report, he is confident based on his conversations with federal officials that Louisiana’s “compelling application” will be successful and expects the award will be announced before Thanksgiving.

“We believe that by the middle of 2027 we will have daily round trips by passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans,” he says.

The bridge over the Bonnet Carré Spillway is a notable weak point along the route, though other improvements will be needed. Additional funding, potentially through the state’s capital outlay process, will be needed for the passenger platforms.

“The costs are not exorbitant, in terms of the benefit that’s going to be delivered,” Edwards adds.

Edwards discussed some of those benefits in a news conference held in Baton Rouge after Edwards, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner and several state and local officials got off of an Amtrak train that had traveled from New Orleans. He said passenger rail will grow the economy in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and “all points in between,” while helping the two cities compete as a single “super-region.”

Passenger rail service between Louisiana’s two biggest cities ended in 1969, which predates Amtrak, officials say. The federal grant would come out of money Congress appropriated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021.

Broome said the agreement shows the value of public-private partnerships. She thanked John Spain, vice chair of the Southern Rail Commission and until recently executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, for his persistence in pushing for the project, which she said would benefit the entire region.