3 Senators Seek Funding for SW Chief

Three U.S. senators announced last week that they are working to seek congressional support in favour of Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

In particular, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, and Mark Udall of Colorado are hoping to keep the Chicago-Los Angles Southwest Chief in place on its current route.

The senators wrote a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development in advance of the Fiscal Year 2015 budgeting process, urging for a strong level of funding for long distance trains, generally, and for consideration of the threatened Southwest Chief:

“Long distance service remains a critical link for small and rural communities. However, despite their importance, these trains require significant capital investment that has gone unmet.

“As you know, Amtrak has announced a possible reroute of the Southwest Chief due to changing shared-use needs. The potential reroute has raised serious concerns among the affected communities who depend on this service. While all stakeholders are working to find a responsible and reasonable solution that will preserve the current route, how to address the significant capital investment needs necessary to retain the current route remains unclear.

“While we recognize you are operating under very tight fiscal constraints, we hope you will consider the needs of our constituents in this year’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.”

In a related development, a coalition of Colorado counties, communities and private donors committed to saving the Southwest Chief have submitted an application for a federal grant to fund maintenance work.

The coalition has raised $250,000 to help match a U.S. Department of Transportation Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery Program grant application being led by officials in Garden City, Kansas.

If the grant is approved, BNSF will receive funding to repair about 50 miles of the Chief route in Kansas and Colorado.

The list of supporters includes Otero County with $10,000, Pueblo with $100,000, Trinidad with $25,000, La Junta with $10,000, Lamar with $10,000, and Bent County with $10,000.

In addition, BSNF has pledged $2 million, the state of Kansas $3 million, and Amtrak $4 million. The TIGER grant application requests $15 million in federal funds for repairs. So far, the state of Colorado has not contributed.

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