Gulf Coast Communities Push for Restored Amtrak Service

When we think about travel these days, automobiles tend to be the default, with our thoughts shifting to planes when the trip grows longer. Railroad travel is still common for commuter travels in some large cities and for business travel in the Northeast, but it often feels like the days of longer-distance train travel belongs to a bygone era. However, many would like to see this change and to see train travel become a more common part of life in the 21st century.

This includes making train travel a more viable option for those in the Southeastern United States. Opening up the railroad networks could ease highway congestion, reduce pollution, and provide cost-savings to some travelers. While trains are often considered one of the safer transportation options, railway accidents are still a threat, and our Panama City train accident lawyer is prepared to help those who are hurt or who lose a loved one in a Northwest Florida train accident.

States and Communities Work to Restore the Sunset Limited amtrak.jpg

Over the weekend, The News Herald reported on a renewed push to restore Amtrak service between Jacksonville and New Orleans. While many consider this a long-shot, the route would revive 15 to 20 stops along the way, including stations in Chipley and Crestview. Bay County Transportation Planning Organization passed a resolution, one passed previously but abandoned after Katrina, asking that the passenger route be reopened.

Consultant Dan Dealy, who is pushing the route on behalf of the city of Mobile, Alabama, notes that Amtrak does not appear interested in the project, both due to inertia and because the so-called Sunset Limited route had never been one of its more popular spans. The tracks themselves have been repaired since Katrina and have been in working order since January 2006. They are currently used by Amtrak for freight transportation, but not for passenger travel. Notably, the New Orleans to California portion of the route, which had been coast-to-coast, is still operational.

States in the Gulf region are pushing for daily passenger rail service, but the crucial decision-point lies in Congress. Amtrak is waiting on Congress to choose between three service options, including the potential restoration of the Sunset Limited. The 2014 appropriations request submitted by Amtrak did not include funds to restore the route. Dealy reports that lawmakers are playing politics with transportation funds and the rail route. While some point to previously low ridership, supporters note that the absence of daily service and a lack of dependability, including large delays, accounted for the ridership rates.

Train Accidents: Statistics and Litigation

While train travel is considered relatively safe when compared to other modes of travel, it is not without risk. The Federal Railway Administration's Office of Safety Analysis system breaks rail accident statistics into several categories. For 2012, the office reports 1,712 total train accidents ("an event involving on-track rail equipment that results in monetary damage to the equipment and track above a certain threshold") and 1,960 highway-rail accidents ("any impact between a rail and a highway user at a crossing site, regardless of severity). Totaled together, these incidents claimed 242 lives and caused 1,205 non-fatal injuries in 2012.

Train accident litigation can be very complex. Depending on the nature of the accident, claims may be made against individual employees, private companies (including transportation companies and the manufacturers of various rail equipment), and municipal organizations, as well as other individuals and entities involved in the accident. Accident types include, but are not limited to, derailments, fires, mechanical failure, and collisions with automobiles.

We favor having a range of transportation options available to the citizens of Northwest Florida and our visitors. Rail service could be a great addition to the current options, and it might also bring additional business visitors and tourists to our region. However, train service is not without its risks, and our Panama City rail accident law firm will be there for victims of train-related accidents.

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