The Alabama State Port Authority and the State of Alabama could help share the cost of an over $3 million effort to bring Amtrak's service back to the Gulf Coast.

The agreement with Amtrak would establish a passenger rail route between Mobile and New Orleans, but the city must provide the $3.048 million to keep earmarked federal grant money in place.

After hearing the council's concerns, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said Tuesday he has had conversations with the governor's office and the State Port Authority about providing assistance. Stimpson believes each entity paying $1.016 million would be the best amount for the city.

He spoke with Gov. Kay Ivey's Chief of Staff, Liz Filmore, and Finance Director Bill Poole with the state.

"The reception I got from the governor's office was very warm and supportive," Stimpson said. "The challenge that they have at this moment in time is that the budget has already been passed."

Stimpson said Poole is looking to see if funds are available from a department that may not need it this year. Otherwise, the payment would have to be approved as part of the state's budget during the next legislative session.

After talking with Port Authority Director and CEO John Driscoll, Stimpson said he believes the Port Authority will easily pay a third of the project because it does not have to go through as much bureaucracy as the state does. Driscoll will still have to present the idea to the Port Authority Board, which will vote on the matter next week.

"The Port remains supportive of implementing the infrastructure outlined in the CRISI grant, which protects our freight operations south of the convention center and, once Amtrak and the City come to an agreement on a lease, will help accommodate passenger rail to the Downtown Mobile station," the Port Authority said in an emailed statement. "If approved by our board of directors, the Port will contribute $1M over three years to the operating subsidy as part of our good faith effort to see the CRISI grant through to fruition. Along with our CRISI grant match for the Virginia St. Lead portion of the project, this will take the Port's total contribution to $1.75M."

Stimpson said while the state has agreed in good faith to pay one-third of the cost, it could take longer for that commitment to come to fruition.

If the state does not come up with the money right away, Stimpson said it could eventually help fund the operation. Either way, the Port Authority and the city may be able to pay half the project costs until the state does find the money.

"The port and the city will front in the first year and then we'll work out the arithmetic to figure out the future payments," he explained. "My feeling is that if the state comes to the table with the money, they'll probably come with the lump sum and means that would really kick us down the road as far as when we have to pay, other than the first year."

Stimpson believes the investment would benefit tourists across the state.

"A comment that I made to the Port and to the state was that the city of Mobile because a lot of this is tourist-generated … in three years, we will know whether this thing is working or not," he said.

After the three-year agreement has expired, Stimpson said all entities can re-evaluate to determine if the services are worth the effort.

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