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Good news, Amtrak fans: Renewed Gulf Coast service and a revamped Union Passenger Terminal are in the works

Multi-million dollar grants will fund the Gulf Coast line’s restoration and the terminal’s renovation

A blocky, circa-1954 train station exterior sits behind an American flag.
New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal serves Amtrak, Greyhound, Megabus, and local buses and streetcars.
Photo by Malcolm K. via Flickr

For the eco-minded, pleasure-seeking passenger who’s not particularly pressed for time, it’s hard to beat Amtrak. Travel by train is 47 percent more energy efficient than driving and 33 percent more efficient than flying, according to the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy Data Book. Although train travel can take twice as long as other methods of transportation, those hours pass pleasantly in an observation deck or while sipping wine in the lounge car.

A train car wrapped with windows is filled with a few people and a conductor who is cleaning a coffee machine.
Passengers play cards in an Amtrak lounge car.

But one of the major routes servicing New Orleans has been out of commission since 2005, when Hurricane Katrina caused extensive damage to railways between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida. Thanks to a $4 million grant from the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration and a $33 million federal grant through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, roundtrip daily service to Mobile, Alabama will resume, as will thrice-weekly service to Orlando, Florida.

“This restored service will continue the economic recovery of communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina, enhance corridor mobility and safety, and allow for safer and more efficient hurricane evacuations by providing a daily passenger service that is business and tourism-friendly,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

That’s not the only good news for rail buffs. The aging Union Passenger Terminal (1001 Loyola Avenue), perhaps best known for its creepy mural and Subway-cum-daiquiri shop, is getting a $6.4 million facelift. Funding for the project includes a $3.7 million federal grant, $2 million in matching funds from the city and the NOBC, and $943,000 in matching funds from Amtrak, a news release said.

“This terminal was once a gleaming station of yesteryear, and now we are going to bring it back better than it’s been before, and that’s thanks to a strong partnership,” said Mayor Cantrell in the release.

The Union Passenger Terminal connects riders to Amtrak, Greyhound Lines, Megabus, Blue Bikes, and NORTA. Work is scheduled to begin in 2020 and conclude in 2022.