Colo. Commission Eyes Chief Funding Needs

A Colorado Commission created to save intercity rail passenger service in the southwest corner of the state recently held its first meeting to begin pondering a plan to take to the legislature.

“We came up with a plan today of what information we have to have in order to ask the Legislature for funding next year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who chairs the Southwest Chief Commission.

The commission will work with officials in Kansas and New Mexico to keep Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief on its present route.

The route’s owner, BNSF Railway, has said that it will no longer maintain the route to passenger train speeds after January 2016.

Amtrak and BNSF have said they would contribute funding to renovate the route if the three states will also kick in funding.

Last week, federal officials awarded a $12.5 million grant for the most urgently needed repairs in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. The tracks also need to be rebuilt in New Mexico and elsewhere in Colorado so that the Chief can continue to travel at between 60 to 70 mph.

On a recent trip to Raton, N.M., Pace watched as 15 people boarded the train at Trinidad, Colo. “It showed me the Chief is important,” he said. “If we don’t make this work, there may not be a Southwest Chief.

Pace and other commission members went to Raton to discuss the future of the Chief with members of the New Mexico Transportation Commission.

“There was a full house, and no negative comments,” Pace said. “Everyone was upbeat about the Chief.”

The Colorado commission is also examining changing the train’s route to serve Pueblo. The Chief currently stops in Colorado at Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad.

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One Response to “Colo. Commission Eyes Chief Funding Needs”

  1. Jason Says:

    The Chief needs to run at 79 MPH to make the scheduled time.

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