Gov. John Bel Edwards among Gonzales visitors during passenger rail route inspection

Staff Report
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, center, meets with state officials, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, during a railroad route inspection April 20.

Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux welcomed Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose, and Canadian Pacific, Kansas City Southern Rail, and Amtrak leaders during a visit in Gonzales the morning of April 20.

The stop was part of a route inspection for the future Baton Rouge to New Orleans passenger rail service. The passenger rail plan includes stops in Gonzales, as well as LaPlace and Kenner.

The City of Gonzales has submitted a RAISE federal grant application in conjunction with East Baton Rouge Parish. City officials hope to be granted the funding for the Gonzales platform and station construction.

Leaders envision train service providing easier access to the New Orleans area airport in Kenner, medical services in Baton Rouge, and larger sporting events such as LSU and New Orleans Saints games.

"Thank you, Gov. John Bel Edwards, for stopping in this morning. Mayor Arceneaux wishes to thank everyone that came out this morning to welcome the route inspection's stop on Cornerview," a spokesperson stated.

Edwards was joined by Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. on the tour of the rail line.

“The impending merger between the Kansas City Southern and the Canadian Pacific railways provides opportunities and renewed support to introduce the first-ever Amtrak service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, since CP has agreement to host the trains,” Gov. Edwards stated in a news release. “An Amtrak line connecting Louisiana’s capital to the largest metropolitan area in the state will have immense economic benefits for both cities and the parishes in between, allowing the state to compete with other major metropolitan areas. Not only will this service potentially reduce the number of vehicles on the roadways which will result in less traffic congestion, but it will also connect communities through employment opportunities and allow for more transportation options for festivals, sporting events, and concerts.”

As pointed out in the release, the preferred route for the roughly 80-mile rail link would be on the KCS tracks between Baton Rouge and the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, and then on the Canadian National tracks from the airport into the Union Passenger Terminal in downtown New Orleans, which is served by other Amtrak trains and intercity buses. As the service and needs grow, additional stops could be added on the Baton Rouge route.

“Last year, Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which will allocate nearly $6 billion to infrastructure projects in Louisiana,” Sec. Wilson stated. “This historic investment from the Biden administration will aid the state in making the first steps to making the intercity rail from Baton Rouge to New Orleans a reality. This potential intercity rail, along with the many transportation projects scheduled to be let this year, will move our state forward create a better overall quality of life for all users, expand the economy, and provide a more reliable transportation system for citizens and businesses in Louisiana. Starting a service is not easy and it does not happen overnight. We have missed the train once before and this governor has been very clear on the matter that we will not miss it again on his watch.”