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Local lawmakers want to see Amtrak return in Northwest Florida, despite fatal derailment

Local lawmakers want to see Amtrak return in Northwest Florida, despite fatal derailment

Freight trains still come by the Pensacola Amtrak station, but the rundown building shows it has been a while since anyone has caught a ride.

The Sunset Limited Line was scrapped after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and destroyed parts of the tracks. There has been a recent effort to restore the service.

Local lawmakers said events like the tragedy in Washington State make them want to ensure the line would be safe if it is restored.

"I've been a supporter of the concept because we cannot continue in a growing state, 21 million people, have that many people of our transportation system," Senator Doug Broxson said. "That simply cannot do it."

Last February, Broxson and many others rode the Amtrak inspection train for a firsthand look at restoring the eastern arm of the Sunset Limited Line. The line would offer daily roundtrip service between New Orleans and Orlando with stops in Pensacola and Crestview.

"We've got to consider other options and if we can do it safely and efficiently and it doesn't cost the state of Florida an abundance of money, it would be something we look at from a legislative standpoint," Broxson said.

In July, the Gulf Coast Working Group, a group created by Congress to study the service, released a report finding it would cost $117 million to restore. The city of Pensacola and Escambia County have previously said they are on board. However, funding has not been established.

Congressman Matt Gaetz told Channel 3 News in an email that the idea of Amtrak returning to the region is exciting, but needs to be handled with fiscal responsibility.

"We cannot borrow from America's future in order to pay for new projects today," Gaetz said.

Gaetz also said his thoughts are with the victims' families of the tragedy Washington.

"Despite the horrible accident, train services like Amtrak helps connect America," Gaetz said.

Broxson agreed.

"Remember that trains are still the fourth safest way to travel," Broxson said. "Airplanes number one, cars and motorcycles are last, not even by a close margin," Broxson said.

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