Local officials push for Amtrak comeback


The city of Tallahassee and Leon County officials have called for the return of Amtrak passenger train services. 

North Florida has been without Amtrak since 2005 when Hurricane Katrina damaged part of the Sunset Limited route that stretches from New Orleans to Jacksonville.

But that will soon change.

City Commissioner Akin Akinyemi expressed the need for local support.

“We will need the citizens of Tallahassee and surrounding areas’ support,” said Akinyemi.

He also said there is a need for alternative transportation due to increasing gas prices during a Feb. 27 news conference.

“Riding the train will be more efficient than driving,” said Akinyemi.

The Federal Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act required Amtrak to submit a plan to restore passenger rail services between New Orleans and Jacksonville in 2008.

While the steps detailed in the plan have yet to be implemented, City Commissioner Nancy Miller said Amtrak’s plans in Florida equals the money being spent outside the northern part of the state.

“Amtrak is going to spend a total of $118 million in Florida,” said Miller. “But they’re not going to be spending it in North Florida. Now the problem with that is that it means not only do we not have access to that transportation, but it also means we don’t have access to the economic stimulus to locate where stops are located.”

Tallahassee’s train station was built in 1858, making it one of the oldest Amtrak stations in Florida, and sadly, the only station not in operation.

Anna Brandt, a member of the Tallahassee Women’s Club, explained why her organization supports the return of Amtrak.

“Well we did know that we lacked affordable transportation for seniors and for the students coming here at FAMU, FSU and TCC,” said Brandt.

She also said the students will appreciate the affordable transportation in and out of Tallahassee.

Students like Meriel Joseph, a senior psychology student, supports Amtrak’s return.

“It would be nice to ride the train home to visit,” said Joseph. “I think I would save money and I can go home to visit more often.”

Although Florida plans to spend $118 million to reestablish rail services from Miami to Jacksonville, county officials urge citizens to contact their state and federal representatives if they would like to see support for restoring train services to the region.