City joins effort to maintain funds for train services

Published 6:00 am Monday, March 21, 2005

Brookhaven and other Mississippi communities served by Amtrakare joining forces to prevent potential fatal funding cuts to thepassenger train service.

Mayor Bob Massengill is among 10 mayors who have signed a letterto the state’s Congressional delegation urging them to maintainsufficient funding for Amtrak. Their communities are served by theCity of New Orleans, which goes through Brookhaven; Sunset Limitedand Crescent routes.

“Our hope is funding will not be cut back, or at least notsignificantly,” Massengill said. “We want to make sure the City ofNew Orleans still runs.”

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The letter expresses the mayors’ concerns about plans beingdiscussed to “zero-out” funding for the train services. The lettersays Amtrak could be forced into bankruptcy and calls the proposal”misguided and will be detrimental to the health and vitality ofour communities.”

In the letter, the mayors point out that almost 100,000travelers were carried to or from Mississippi last year.Approximately 3,000 to 4,000 passengers got on or disembarked inBrookhaven last year, Massengill said.

“Most of the towns Amtrak serves in the state have few if anyother transportation options, and Amtrak fills a critical need forour citizens,” the mayors said in the letter.

Massengill expressed similar comments.

“It is the most feasible mode of transportation for a lot ofpeople,” the mayor said.

The letter goes on to point out the economic developmentimportance of Amtrak and train station renovation effortsundertaken by a large majority of the communities served.

Brookhaven is included in that as it is in the process ofdeveloping a new transportation facility. Without train services,it would have no clear function.

“Eventually we hope the multi-modal transportation facility canbe used for multiple purposes,” Massengill said. “Right now, it’sjust a train depot.”

Massengill was understanding of the difficult budget situationsbeing faced by federal lawmakers.

“As with state government, everything’s being looked at,”Massengill said.

Massengill was hopeful that any funding cutbacks would beminimal. He remained optimistic that Brookhaven would continue tobe served by passenger rail services in some form.

“We want to see that we keep this service,” Massengill said.