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Modest ridership projections in passenger rail study connecting Shreveport and Vicksburg

Kate Archer Kent

Consultants are wrapping up a year-long feasibility study exploring passenger rail service from Shreveport-Bossier to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

They presented their findings Thursday as part of two public meetings held in Bossier City and Ruston. The Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments commissioned the study. It’s one of several underway from Texas to Mississippi.

The study found estimated ridership between Shreveport and Vicksburg would be 81,500 people annually. The yearly operating cost: $9.6 million with almost all of it subsidized.

NLCOG executive director Kent Rogers says when you fold in numbers from Dallas-Fort Worth to Vicksburg, the ridership doubles, and the study takes a very different turn.

“Shreveport to Vicksburg is low, but as soon as you add in Dallas-Fort Worth to Shreveport to Vicksburg those numbers jump astronomically and that’s going to continue to grow as you build on those longer segments,” Rogers said, following a 90-minute midday presentation at Bossier Parish Community College.

Randy Wade, passenger rail director for HNTB, delivered a PowerPoint presentation and fielded questions from an audience of about 30 people.

Madison, Wisconsin-based HNTB is an engineering and planning firm that carries out these types of passenger rail studies nationwide, and did this one. Wade says Dallas must be counted in order to show very compelling evidence of the need for passenger rail in these parts.

“You need to get the major population centers connected. You’re very close to Dallas. It’s a huge economy and there’s tremendous demand in terms of desire to travel. It looks like a lot of your casino and other tourist visitors come from the Dallas area,” Wade said. “A broader look at the corridor is important and the numbers bear that out.”

This study evaluated a 170-mile long rail corridor along the Kansas City Southern route with station stops in Ruston and Monroe. Wade said this study used a train speed of 79 miles per hour. The final report on passenger rail between Shreveport and Vicksburg will be published online early next month.

The Ark-La-Tex Corridor Council chairman Richard Anderson said a separate Amtrak internal study on service linking Dallas to the northeast will be published later this summer. This feasibility study, according to Anderson, is one “silo” in a much broader vision by the Southern Rail Commission.

“It’s not just people who want to go from Fort Worth to Bossier, it’s people who want to go from Fort Worth to Bossier to Vicksburg to Atlanta  to New York to Washington, D.C.,” Anderson said.

Rogers said passenger rail connecting Dallas to Shreveport-Bossier will come sooner than a line from Shreveport-Bossier to Vicksburg, but there is no timeline set for either. The study recommends Amtrak as the service operator to avoid up-front train equipment costs.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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