Another TIGER Grant Sought to Continue Rebuilding of BNSF Tracks Used by S.W. Chief

Lamar, Colorado, is seeking a $30 million TIGER grant to be used to fund track renovation of the route of Amtrak’s Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

This money would be used to lay 60 miles of new track and complete a rebuilding of the BNSF La Junta Subdivision in Kansas and Colorado.

Amtrak Southwest Chief 2Some of the money would also be used to rebuild tracks owned by the state of New Mexico in Santa Fe County.

The work would involve replacement of bolted rail with continuous welded rail that will enable the Chief to travel at a top speed of 79 mph.

Aging semaphore and searchlight block signals would be replaced with modern signals and the signal pole line would be removed along 22.5 miles of track owned by New Mexico on the BNSF Albuquerque Subdivision.

Switches will also be upgraded, which officials said will better facilitate meets between Amtrak Nos. 3 and 4.

The work is expected also to result in a better ride quality.

The grant would be combined with $10 million of non-federal matching funds for a total project cost of $41 million.

In a related development, Pueblo County, Colorado, has joined 23 communities pledging grant-matching funds in support of the city of Lamar’s TIGER grant application.

The Pueblo County commissioners this week approved a local match of $12,500, making it the third that the county has pledged to the campaign to keep the Southwest Chief on its present route through the southeast corner of Colorado.

“This would make a total of over 300 miles of rail replacement between TIGER grants,” said Commissioner Sal Pace.

The transportation departments of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico have all agreed to provide $1 million in matching funds to support the TIGER grant application. Another $3 million has been pledged by Amtrak and BNSF.

The Chief stops in Colorado in Trinida, La Junta and Lamar, but Pace and others want to see the train serve Pueblo.

Pace, who chairs the Southwest Chief Commission, said the next TIGER grant after the Lamar application, will be submitted by Pueblo County and focus on a reroute of the train to serve Pueblo.

He estimated that $35 million is needed to complete the necessary track improvements in the region and the commission intends to apply for the TIGER IX grant to fund those improvements.

Pace said he plans to meet with Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers to discuss a potential extension of rail passenger service to that city.

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