Baton Rouge-to-New Orleans passenger rail falls short in $8.2B funding round. So what’s next?


The federal government last week announced $8.2 billion in new funding for passenger rail that does not include the $200 million Louisiana officials were seeking for establishing service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

However, the state transportation department will get up to $500,000 to complete a service development plan and federally required environmental study, which could be the next step toward full funding.

“Once that is completed, estimated in 2025, then Louisiana will be a priority for federal funding for the construction,” Rodney Mallett with the Department of Transportation and Development says by email. “Once the environmental study is completed, we will be in position to request additional federal funds.”

In October, Gov. John Bel Edwards told Daily Report that Louisiana was seeking about $200 million for needed infrastructure improvements along the planned route and said he thought the state’s application likely would be successful. Spokesperson Eric Holl says the administration remains “very optimistic” the state will receive that money in a later round.

“The $8 billion in funding announced nationwide today is only a fraction of the total funding that will be awarded through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program,” Holl adds.

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, blamed politics for Louisiana missing out on the $200 million it was seeking, saying the Biden administration has been ignoring Louisiana’s priorities and directing federal funding to “blue states.”

“Tackling the fourth worst traffic in America will require an all-the-above strategy―which means a new bridge, improved routes like LA 30 and LA 1, and other options including rail,” Graves says in a prepared statement.

Also as part of today’s announced funding, the Southern Rail Commission received $1 million in Corridor Identification and Development Program money to support further planning and development of passenger rail routes, specifically $500,000 for the Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans corridor and $500,000 for the Interstate 20 corridor between Meridian, Mississippi, and Ft. Worth, Texas.