GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - Seven Louisiana parish leaders gathered Wednesday to ask the next governor to establish passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
The news conference was held in Gonzales. Officials from Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, St. Charles, St. James and St. John the Baptist were in attendance.
"This is the single, most important project that can change the face of our region for many, many years to come," New Orleans Representative Walt Leger III (D).
Along with members of the Louisiana South Region Rail Authority, Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux says the city has already purchased land to accommodate a commuter train stop.
"The city of Gonzales actually purchased land for their station I think is a very strong symbol that we're moving forward," said Kristin Gisleson-Palmer with the LA Super Region Rail Authority.
Mayor Arceneaux said, "CPEX has worked very closely with us here in Gonzales and this is the area that we were talking about doing some revitalization surely this is one of the things that begins that for us."
Gonzales is the first and only city along the proposed rail line that has actually purchased land where their depot would be. And while seeing an actual commuter train along these tracks is little far off in the future, officials are excited today about the potential growth it can bring.
"The rail depot would afford us in the terms of economic development, leisure travel and an influx in new workers commuting to this area has us, and I say us in Gonzales, very excited about this program," said Mayor Arceneaux.
The authority says a commuter train will help keep the region globally competitive, and says for now, getting Louisiana's next governor on board is their main focus.
"We really need the leadership of a Governor who knows this is a priority for our state, our region and all of our communities and that's what our primary next steps will be," said Gisleson-Palmer.
Parish leaders cited billions of dollars in planned industrial development throughout the region as the reason the service is so crucial.
The authority was not able to provide any concrete timeline of when we could see the passenger train moving through the region. They did say a gubernatorial briefing book is expected to be made public next week.