(MARKS, MS) – This project has been in the making for twenty years, and finally, within two weeks, the City of New Orleans Northbound Amtrak Train #58 will sound its whistle at a distance and slowly bring its engine to a stop on the tracks at the new Northwest Regional Amtrak Stop at 285 Cherry Street in Marks, Mississippi. The official maiden ride and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Northwest Regional Amtrak stop is scheduled for Friday, May 4, 2018, at 5:30 p.m. The train will stop daily on routes running between Chicago and New Orleans and will help connect travelers to other routes across the country.
The Quitman County Board of Supervisors, along with the City of Marks Mayor Joe Shegog and the Board of Aldermen, are ready to showcase and celebrate this newly constructed passenger stop with a host of invited guests, which include U.S. Senator Roger Wicker; U.S. Congressman Bennie J. Thompson; Governor Phil Bryant; Mississippi Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert; Glenn McCullough, Jr., Executive Director of Mississippi Development Authority; and Christopher Caldwell, Executive Director of Delta Regional Authority.
Canadian National and Amtrak officials and a host of other state, regional and local elected officials, community leaders and very enthusiastic local and regional residents will also take part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Manuel Killebrew, President of the Quitman County Board of Supervisors, is optimistic that the new station will revitalize downtown Marks to help increase tourism not only in the northwest corridor, but in the state as a whole. Killebrew said, “There are many elected officials and community leaders to thank who lobbied for this regional project that will provide passenger rail service to over 200,000 residents living in the seven surrounding counties.” He stated, “U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and retired U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, along with U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson were key players along with our state and local representatives.”
This project is funded in part by a $500,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and appropriated through the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) with a 20 percent local match from Quitman County. The local match was secured by a grant of $150,000 from the Mississippi Development Authority, and a $300,000 grant from Delta Regional Authority was awarded to help fund this project at a cost of nearly $1,200,000.
“After nearly two decades of planning, patience, and perseverance, Marks has many reasons to celebrate this momentous occasion,” Senator Wicker said. “Travelers, tourists, and residents will now have access to safe, efficient, and cost-effective passenger rail service to this culturally-rich destination along the busy New Orleans to Chicago corridor. I was proud to work with Quitman County, the Mississippi congressional delegation, and our railroad representatives to remove the roadblocks to this project, which I believe will benefit so many Mississippians in this seven-county region.”
Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert said, “The Marks Amtrak Station provides exciting economic and tourism opportunities for the Mississippi Delta. Over 200,000 residents in north Mississippi will have a new transportation option which connects them to all points between New Orleans and Chicago. Visitors and tourists will be able to experience our state’s hospitality, culture and blues music with a stop right in the heart of the Delta.”
Quitman County Administrator Velma Benson-Wilson and previous Administrator, Chancery Clerk Butch Scipper, worked with the Board of Supervisors in negotiating the agreement between CN and Amtrak, helping to secure funds and plan for the project. They are both thrilled to see the new station constructed. Wilson said, “The timing for the opening of the new Amtrak stop coincides with the 50th Anniversary celebration of the 1968 Marks Mule Train & Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign that will be held the following Mother’s Day weekend May 10-13. The planning committee will be offering special hotel packages for visitors coming to Marks to join in the three-day symposium commemorating the 1968 Mule Train history. Wilson stated, “It’s like fate. In 1968 the passenger train played a key role in the Poor People’s Campaign. Once the mules and wagons reached Atlanta, Georgia, they were disassembled and loaded onto the train and transported to Washington, D.C.”
City of Marks Mayor Joe Shegog said, “The ribbon-cutting ceremony will certainly be a historic event,” as he applauds the Board of Supervisors for their leadership and persistence. Shegog feels this is an opportune time for the City of Marks, Quitman County and the entire region to come together and work to ensure a sustainable ridership and success of this stop.”
The ribbon cutting will be followed by a community-wide cookout with music provided by Mississippi country artist Steve Azar. For additional information visit www.quitmancountyms.org.