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Is Louisville ready for Amtrak again? City is one step closer to proposed line connection

This isn't the first time Amtrak has had its eyes set on Louisville, the city shares a long history with passenger trains.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Amtrak is one step closer to connecting Louisville to other major cities by train.

The initial plan was released in 2021, a new line would connect the River City to Indianapolis with a stop in Jeffersonville. From there, the routes go to Chicago or Washington D.C. which connect to other major cities.

Mayor Craig Greenberg's office confirmed the city has completed the steps necessary to get the plan in motion.

"Now the city will work with GLI and other community partners to complete the application for a grant to conduct a feasibility study," Kevin Trager, with the mayor's office, said.

The city will know if they get the grant later this summer. Then, the feasibility study will take about a year.

Shelby Somervell, vice president of government affairs and communications for Greater Louisville Inc., said the study will determine how the service will work and how much it will cost. It will also focus on track conditions and driving time competitiveness, which were issues in the past.

"No one's going to want to take the train if it's not going any faster than driving your car. But from what we heard, they want to improve the routes, make them faster so they will be driving time competitive, which we think will really make people want to use them," she said.

Somervell says once the study is complete, Kentucky's Transportation Cabinet will meet with nearby states that are interested in connecting routes. She said they will discuss operating costs, maintenance costs, and funding.

Check out Amtrak's latest plan of proposed passenger train lines:

Newly released map showing all of the proposed passenger rail routes submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration....

Posted by All Aboard Ohio on Monday, December 5, 2022

This wouldn't be the first time Amtrak has had its eyes set on Louisville, the city shares a long history with passenger trains.

In 1971, "the Floridian" first traveled from Chicago through Louisville to Miami. It was notorious for lackluster on-time performance, poor track conditions and low ridership. But in September 1979, passengers and staff said their final farewell.

In 1999,  Amtrak would resume in Kentuckiana – departing Jeffersonville at night and rolling for 12 hours, reaching Chicago the next morning.

The bridge to carry passengers over the Ohio River was already in place, but there wasn't a proper train station in Louisville.

WHAS11's Doug Proffitt covered consideration for the old Union Station in downtown Louisville, but soon after city officials questioned if the $300,000 investment would be worth it.

As Amtrak lost money nationwide, the company asked Congress for a bailout, canceling 18 long distance routes including the Kentucky Cardinal line from Chicago to Louisville.

The last passenger train passed over the tracks in July 2003, since then only freight trains have crossed Louisville's tracks.

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