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Meridian to host Rail Passengers Association’s fall conference

Meridian will serve as the site of an upcoming conference for an association that advocates for rail passengers.

The Rail Passengers Association chose Meridian out of more than 20 nominated cities to host its 2023 fall conference. The annual three-day conference attracts up to 1,000 attendees and includes meetings and advocacy workshops, according to the RPA website.

“We were shocked upon hearing the news and we’re super excited about what this means for us, as well as Meridian,” Meridian Rails Historical Society Executive Director Lucy Dormont said.

The Rail Passengers Association advocates with state senators and legislators to offer more rail transit for passengers, as well as improve, expand and provide safer train service, Domont said.

In recent months Rail Passengers Council members were tasked with nominating, then voting on a location for the 2023 fall meeting.

“The only provision given was the Council’s ‘unwritten rule’ which dictated a regional rotation of the location of the meeting,” Dormont explained. “Locations on the East Coast would more than likely be given higher priority.”

During the initial phase, more than 20 cities received at least one entry for nomination, according to the RPA website. A clear Top 5 emerged from the list, each receiving the most mentions: San Antonio, Texas; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; Providence, R.I.; Buffalo, N.Y., and …. Meridian, MS.

“Who would have thought Meridian, Mississippi, would have been included in that list?” Dormont remarked.

Much of that credit can be attributed to Meridian’s Jerome Trahan, who serves as a RPC Mississippi Council Representative. Trahan submitted the following nomination:

“Meridian, MS, is a town built by the railroads. Our cultural lineage is cemented as the birthplace of Jimmie Rodgers, (The Singing Brakeman), recognized as the Father of American Music. Our transportation roots run still deeper as the hometown of former FRA Administrator Gil Carmichael and Amtrak Board of Directors Chair John Robert Smith. Meridian’s Union Station was the first multimodal station built with public/private funds in the U.S. and is a model for what an emphasis on transportation can do for a community.

“Since its opening in 1997, the station renovation was the catalyst for the rebirth of what is now a thriving downtown. The MSU Riley Center (a downtown jewel) features the Grand Opera House of Mississippi, built in 1891 and positioned as the last stop on Historic Crescent line for theater and musical performances before those troupes terminated in New Orleans. With the station renovation, this small Mississippi town has the infrastructure for the eventuality of higher speed passenger travel and extension of Amtrak service to the West. Just steps from Union Station Meridian is also the home of The MAX, the Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience - a $60M arts showcase that celebrates the achievements of Mississippians in the arts who have changed the world.

“None of this would have been possible without the railroad and makes Meridian the perfect destination to see the benefits of transportation to this county. A new historic downtown hotel (The Threefoot Hotel) also adds to what would be an amazing location to this event.”

In reference to Trahan’s nomination letter, Dormont said Meridian’s history of being founded by the rails is being told and heard.

“People are starting to hear our story, locally as well as nationwide,” she said. “This conference could not have come at a better time. I believe it will be a great addition to what we’re working to accomplish here at the Meridian Rails Historical Society. We have a number of expansion projects in the works, including a passenger excursion that will run in and out of the city.”

The dates of the three-day 2023 Rail Passengers Association Conference have not been set, however the event is usually held in mid-October, Dormont said.

Story submitted- City of Meridian



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