Colo. Committee OKs Amtrak Funding Bill

A Colorado legislative committee has approved a plan to keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route in southwestern Colorado

On a 13-0 vote, the Local Government Committee approved a bill late Thursday night that now moves to the another House committee or to the House floor for consideration.

“We had a huge turnout in the committee room, and many experts from throughout the state — and even a few from outside the state — testified in support of the bill,” said Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, a sponsor of the bill. “I’m proud of the collective effort of Southern and Southeastern Colorado to save the Southwest Chief.”

Amtrak may reroute the Chief due to maintenance issues on its BNSF route. The bill is a measure to provide a solution for a five-way partnership with Kansas, New Mexico, Amtrak and BNSF to fund track repairs and maintenance.

It also would add a stop in Pueblo, Colo.

In the meantime, some public officials are hoping that making cuts in onboard services might save money that would in turn help preserve the Southwest Chief

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman has said he’ll seek to help rescue the route of the Chief through such cost-cutting measures, including eliminating complimentary wine and cheese, as well as pillow chocolates, flowers and vases, and newspapers on its long distance routes.

That move was in large part a response to congressional criticisms of losses from Amtrak’s food and beverage service,, which totaled $72 million in fiscal 2012, according to the news website Politico Pro.

Cutting costs and eliminating those losses keeps Amtrak moving toward its goal of continuing “to serve small-town America that is being abandoned by airlines and bus companies,” Boardman said, “and keep communities such as Trinidad and La Junta … connected by rail to the rest of the nation.”

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