The Southeast Super Region (SoLA) Committee and elected officials across the Super Region today released support of the inclusion of city paired passenger rail in President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, a $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure package, and Amtrak’s subsequent announcement of its plans to add routes to up to 160 communities, including passenger rail between the Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros. Amtrak’s plans outline its goal to carry 20 million more passengers by 2035 with the $80 billion earmarked for rail in the American Jobs Plan.
Erin Monroe Wesley, 2021 chair of SoLA and southeast vice president of government and public affairs for Cox Communications, stated, “This is what we’ve been waiting for. We know that commuter patterns, traffic problems, and competitiveness for business and talent all make the case for passenger rail in the SoLA Super Region. The Baton Rouge and New Orleans metros have long been bound by economic ties, and the growing number of daily commuters, compounded by freight moving through these industry heavy regions, simply cannot effectively be accommodated by current infrastructure. In addition, intercity rail has overwhelming support throughout the geography it would cover. We applaud the Biden administration for recognizing the significant impact commuter rail can have on our country, and look forward to working with our federal delegation to secure its inclusion in final legislation.”
John Spain, chair of the transportation committee for SoLA and member of the Southern Rail Commission, stated, “President Biden’s announcement that his American Jobs Plan includes funding for starting new passenger rail service between American cities could provide the critical funding necessary for improving the rail infrastructure between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, which is the first step towards starting passenger rail service between our two cities. This is a very important and exciting step forward for the project.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell stated, “Since taking office, infrastructure and transportation have been at the forefront of our priorities. Rail infrastructure is crucial to improving people’s access and mobility, and this connection between two, advancing cities such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge will be a critical economic driver for our region. I look forward to further working with the Biden administration, our federal delegation, and our regional partners to advance an infrastructure and passenger rail vision that delivers for all of our people.”
Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Shang stated, “A stride like this brings about synergy with the economic hubs of Baton Rouge, Jefferson Parish and New Orleans. Pulling resources with our neighboring communities makes us marketable, competitive and expands our economic growth. This allows us to better compete against other regions throughout the country that have a larger population base.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome stated, “Resuming this passenger rail service will be a major benefit to the Baton Rouge economy. It will provide another option for commuters between our two cities and offer tourists easy access to enjoy the entire super region. Baton Rouge continues to see amazing progress in transportation that is benefiting everyone.”
St. John the Baptist Parish President Jaclyn Hotard stated, “Establishing high-quality passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, with a proposed stop in St. John the Baptist Parish, will not only benefit residents, businesses, and visitors, but also support the continued economic growth of the region, improve connectivity between major cities, and enhance cultural activities throughout the state. We are pleased to see rail as a top priority in the President’s recent American Jobs Plan and support the rail project as a regional approach to much-needed connectivity and mobility.”
“I’m happy to see this project gain support, as this endeavor will certainly bring a positive impact to the river parishes by providing the opportunity for alternate transportation, infrastructure improvements and continued development.”
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux stated, “The City of Gonzales is very excited to hear that the Biden administration is supporting rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We have worked closely with the Rail Commission since it selected our city as a station along the route. Our city council has already invested in land acquisition and design planning for a new rail station, and will continue to support the project as it progresses. We look forward to working with the Rail Commission, the Biden administration, and our governor to make this a reality for our region. This is an important quality of life initiative for our citizens, improving our transportation options for all and protecting our environment.”
Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO, Inc., stated, “Passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans will literally bring the Southeast Super Region together. This will make all of us more economically competitive as we go up against larger metros like Houston and Atlanta for the jobs and workforce of the future. It will have additional benefits related to transit-oriented development, and will also provide for alternate evacuation routes during hurricanes or other natural disasters.”
Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, stated, “For the Baton Rouge Area, this is a massive opportunity to amplify our scale to the world, linking the workforces and populations of Louisiana’s two largest regions into a two million person super region. Plus, who doesn’t want access to sports, restaurants, and great hospitality in both incredible markets!”
“I am glad to see the potential development of additional forms of transportation for St. Charles Parish residents,” said St. Charles Parish President Matthew Jewell. “I look forward to working with GNO, Inc. as this project moves forward.”
Passenger rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans has been studied extensively. A poll conducted of 1,050 registered voters in Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. James, and St. John Parishes in February and March of 2019 found that 75% of people felt positively toward the passenger rail, with 63% stating interest in riding it.