TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD The Amtrak Inspection Train arrives in Gulfport, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016. The train ride began in New Orleans, making stops at Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi Pascagoula before heading to Alabama and Florida. New funding is available that could bring back passenger service to South Mississippi.

Nearly a year after Amtrak first petitioned to run a passenger route through the Gulf Coast, the federal body that will decide the train’s future is holding a public meeting. 

The Surface Transportation Board, which is based in Washington, D.C., announced it will host a public hearing on Feb. 15 about the proposed route that would run between New Orleans and Mobile with stops in Mississippi. The meeting, which will be hosted on Zoom and then posted to YouTube, will allow for public comments. 

On March 9, the board will hold an evidence hearing over the railway dispute between Amtrak and the private companies that own and use the tracks. That hearing could be continued into the following day but will eventually result in the board making a decision on whether Amtrak will once again run along the Coast. 

READ MORE: The fate of Amtrak’s Gulf Coast return rests with a federal board

In March 2021, Amtrak filed a petition to access the railway tracks along the Gulf Coast. Those tracks are owned primarily by CSX, a freight company. Amtrak has been at odds with private industry over use of the tracks for years. 

Amtrak had hoped to start running the passenger route by Jan. 1, 2022. 

CSX has maintained more research on the capacity of tracks is needed before they are shared with Amtrak for public use. 

Those interested in making a public comment at this month’s hearing have to file a notice with the board by Feb. 7.

If the board makes a decision in favor of Amtrak, the new route would have four stops in Mississippi: Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula. It would stretch over 200 miles from start to finish and have two trains running both ways — once in the morning and once in the evening.

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