Here’s the latest on the Baton Rouge-to-New Orleans passenger rail


    Efforts to establish a passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans are slowly but surely progressing.

    That’s according to John Spain, senior adviser to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, who gave an update on those efforts at the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge on Wednesday.

    In October 2023, then-Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an agreement with Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner that laid the foundation for the resumption of passenger rail service between Louisiana’s two largest cities, a route last available in 1969. Around the same time, the state applied for a $200 million federal grant to fund the project. Though that application was ultimately denied, the Department of Transportation and Development did receive $500,000 to complete an environmental study and a service development plan.

    So, where does the project stand today?

    Spain, who serves on the Southern Rail Commission, says much of the infrastructure required for the resumption of passenger rail service is already in place, as existing freight rail lines will be used to transport passengers. He estimates that any infrastructure upgrades that do need to be made would take only 18 to 24 months to complete.

    “Where we are now is the state needs to finalize the proposal and meet with Amtrak and say, ‘We would like for you to run a train for us under a contract,’” Spain says. “If we sign that today, this train could probably start [running] in two years.”

    If the plan comes to fruition, two train stops would be located in Baton Rouge. One would certainly be located downtown at the intersection of Government and 14th streets, and another would likely be located in the Baton Rouge Health District to facilitate medically necessary evacuations in the event of a major storm.

    Preliminary estimates suggest that it would cost a passenger about $15 each way to ride the train, though Spain stresses that ticket prices are by no means set in stone. While the train would only make one trip per day at first, a second trip would likely be added after six months.

    As for Louisiana’s recent change in leadership, Spain doesn’t seem particularly concerned. He says key players have been meeting with Gov. Jeff Landry’s administration on a somewhat regular basis to get it up to speed on the project and that those talks have been going smoothly.