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Railway Infrastructure is a Priority

It’s been nearly ten years since Hurricane Katrina impacted our community and put an end to passenger rail along the Gulf Coast. As our United States Senate continues the discussion on the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015, we have an opportunity in Coastal Alabama to rekindle a long-delayed conversation.

While there are many aspects to this debate, I believe this is the right time for us to consider the role of public-private partnerships in providing passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast. It is vital to our continued growth for our residents to have access to rail travel, as our roadways are becoming more jammed with cars and trucks every day. I believe that the private sector is best equipped to manage passenger rail service profitably.

It is also important for us to realize the role that government traditionally plays in developing and providing infrastructure for our communities. While it is not a primary role of government to build airplanes, manage airports or to sell tickets, it is the responsibility of the government to provide roads to airports, runways upon which planes land and security for all participants in air travel. The same can be said of highway and bridge development along our roadways as well as, channel dredging and water management of our ports.

It is time that we broaden the discussion, beyond whether or not to extend funding to a single operator like Amtrak, but to how can we best build infrastructure to encourage commerce, provide safety and promote movement within our country.

I hope Congress will focus efforts on providing needed support of the railway system and work to encourage private entities to further develop the products that will use the infrastructure in order to serve the citizens in the best way possible.

Over the past three years, the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) has been actively promoting the restoration of passenger rail service corridor along the Gulf Coast. As a liaison for the City of Mobile, I have been monitoring the conversation for the public and business interest of Coastal Alabama. I look forward to continuing to work with other members of the SRC and our elected officials to develop a plan for rebuilding passenger rail through appropriate public-private partnerships.

Sincerely,

Wiley Blankenship
CEO & President
Coastal Alabama Partnership

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251-436-8822 • 450 St. Louis Street • Mobile, AL 36602 • P.O. Box 881 • Mobile, AL 36601 • contact@coastalalabama.org