Amtrak’s Sunset Limited operates three days a week between Los Angeles and New Orleans, and it’s a wonderful trip. In fact, I’ll be on the eastbound Sunset in a bit over a week, on my way to the annual meeting of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) in Washington, DC.
For quite a few years, the Sunset ran a trans-continental route past New Orleans and all the way to the east coast, terminating in Orlando, Florida. I’ll have to leave the Sunset in New Orleans, however, because that eastern segment was discontinued when Hurricane Katrina damaged many miles of track east of New Orleans and into Mississippi.
The Sunset Limited crosses the bridge at Escambia Bay outside of Pensacola, Florida. (Amtrak photo)
CSX, the freight railroad that owns the track, made all the repairs and actually moved much of the track farther inland, but Amtrak has never restored that portion of the Sunset’s route and there has been some grumbling about that in the years since. NARP has consistently advocated restoration of the service and, in addition, has urged that the service be upgraded to operate on a daily basis. At the request of Congress, Amtrak did do a study on the feasibility of restarting the service, but for whatever reason they are clearly half-hearted about doing so.
For a while it seemed as though not that the public really didn't care very much one way or the other, but suddenly and spontaneously all across the Florida panhandle, people have started to speak up. One after another, mayors of cities and towns are joining with community organizations in a rousing chorus asking Amtrak to reinstate Sunset Limited service east from New Orleans to Jacksonville and Orlando.
Eventually, government begins to pay attention. After all, look what happened with the Downeaster! (See previous post.) So if you happen to live anywhere in that 700-mile stretch of the South that would benefit from restored and expanded service by the Sunset Limited, please contact your elected representatives at all levels of government – local, state and federal. And, while you’re at it, please consider becoming a member of NARP, too. Thanks!