Kay Ivey fires Southern Rail commissioner after refusing to fund Mobile Amtrak

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“Y’all aboard?” The Southern Rail Commission proverbially asked Alabama Governor Kay Ivey.

Her response?

Nope.

Last week Ivey declined to commit funding to restart the Amtrak coastal connection. Saying that by her analysis, restoring a passenger rail service between Mobile and New Orleans would lead to a detrimental impact to the commercial and freight rail services coming in and out of Mobile.

“As we continue to address congestion on our surface transportation systems, both on our highways and rail system, I currently do not plan to provide limited state resources to passenger rail service,” Ivey said in a statement. “We have higher priority opportunities to address congestion on I-10 through the Mobile River Bridge project, expansion of the Port of Mobile and numerous highway projects around the state.”

On Monday, Ivey sent a letter to Southern Rail Commission chairman, John Spain saying representative Jerry Gehman would no longer be part of the commission.

Gehman has been a vocal supporter of the Amtrak coastal connection, urging Ivey to divert funds to the project, and criticizing her for not meeting with the commission since taking office.

“We’ve not had four trains a day between Mobile and New Orleans, passenger trains a day, in our history,” Gehman told WKRG News 5. “It’s not something that’s just a pipe dream, this is three years of significant work.”

“I would wish that the Southern Rail Commission have great success in the future,” Gehman told AL.com after news of his termination. “But in the state of Alabama, given the governor’s rejection letter of the passenger rail possibility that existed … and given the tenor of her comments, I don’t see it being a viable option during this governor’s tenure.”

Maddox calls out Ivey

Gubernatorial candidate Walt Maddox was quick to criticize Ivey for what he called “outdated governing.”

“It has become clear to me that, though some economic benefit may be realized by new passenger rail service, such service will have an outsized detrimental impact on other types of rail service,” Maddox said in a statement.

“As we continue to address congestion on our surface transportation systems, both on our highways and rail system, I currently do not plan to provide limited state resources to passenger rail service. We have higher priority opportunities to address congestion on I-10 through the Mobile River Bridge project, expansion of the Port of Mobile and numerous highway projects around the state.”

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