Bid to Fund S.W. Chief Falls Short in Colorado

Supporters of keeping Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route through Colorado fell one vote short last week when the Colorado legislature’s Joint Budget Committee turned down funding improvement to the train’s route.

“General fund support for the Chief came down to one legislator. We couldn’t secure Senator Kevin Grantham’s vote,” said Sal Pace of Pueblo, Colo., who chairs the Southwest Chief Commission.

“I can’t speculate to his rationale, but it underscores how desperately we need someone from Pueblo on the Joint Budget Committee. There are other avenues for funding, which we are aggressively pursuing beginning today,” Pace said.

Earlier, Chief supporters did manage a victory in the Colorado House when two amendments were added to the House version of the state budget bill that set aside $1 million as a match from other sources to obtain a federal grant to upgrade and repair trackage through Trinidad, La Junta, and Lamar.

A $500,000 appropriation would have funded a study of linking the route to Pueblo.

Neither of those measures survived the committee, leaving the delegation from Pueblo and Southern Colorado weighing its options for funding track work that Amtrak and BNSF say is needed to keep the Chicago-Los Angeles train running on its current route past January 2016.

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