GULF SHORES — Amtrak will begin running test routes between Mobile and New Orleans after settling a long-running dispute with freight rail carriers and the Alabama Port Authority.

The portion of the Sunset Limited route east of New Orleans had been shut down since 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. Freight rail lines own many of the rails used by Amtrak. For months, those freight lines argued that Amtrak using the line between Mobile and New Orleans could cause backups in supply chains.

However, Amtrak, CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway, the Alabama State Port Authority and the Terminal Railway Alabama State Docks went back and forth for years on a proposal to get the route between New Orleans and Mobile running again. The companies finally came to an agreement late last year.

The test routes, which will begin this week, will allow Amtrak crews to learn the lay of the land and familiarize themselves with the trip.

The passenger service will begin later this year, although an exact date has not been determined.

Amtrak, Southern Rail Commission and Gulf Coast Regional Planning Commission have started an education campaign with Operation Lifesaver Inc. to raise awareness in areas where Amtrak trains will travel.

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