SW Chief Mayors Coalition Being Formed

Two mayors who have been fighting to maintain operation of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief will deliver the opening session presentation to the annual meeting of the Association of Private Railroad Car Owners in Albuquerque on Sept. 17.

The mayors, John Pritchard of Galesburg, Illinois, and Tim Keller of Albuquerque, are expected to announce the creation of a Southwest Chief Mayors’ Coalition to coordinate advocacy efforts of elected officials and stakeholders.

Numerous public officials have become involved in the fight in recently years to save the Chief, which operates between Chicago and Los Angeles.

First there was a threat that the train would lose its route in parts of western Kansas, southeast Colorado and northern New Mexico after host railroad BNSF said it would no longer maintain the track to passenger train speeds.

That threat was turned back by using a combination of federal, state and local funds to rebuild the track.

The latest threat to the train played out this year when Amtrak indicated it would cease operating the Chief between Dodge City, Kansas, and Albuquerque and instead bus passengers over that segment.

Those plans for now have been thwarted by political opposition.

During the AAPRCO convention, the group will make a ceremonial check presentation to Colfax County, New Mexico, representing a $10,000 contribution to the 2018 Southwest Chief federal TIGER. Colfax County was the lead applicant for the grant.

Also scheduled for the meeting is a rare mileage excursion from Albuquerque to Santa Fe using Rail Runner Express and Santa Fe Southern equipment.

That trip will include lunch at the historic Legal Tender Saloon in Lamy.

Other highlights of the meeting include a tour of Albuquerque’s Alvarado Transportation Center, which is used by the Southwest Chief, and a gourmet dinner aboard railcar Northern Sky.

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