Posts Tagged ‘Kansas Department of Transportation’

Kansas Legislature Support Amtrak Route Extension

March 28, 2020

The Kansas legislature has approved a resolution expressing support for extending Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer into Kansas.

The resolution urges the Kansas congressional delegation to support federal funding that would make the extension possible.

That is a reference to an Amtrak proposal for a dedicated federal appropriation to help states pay for new Amtrak corridor service.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has proposed setting aside state funding for preliminary work to develop passenger rail services.

The Kansas Department of Transportation’s FORWARD Kansas transportation plan recommends developing the Heartland Flyer extension from Oklahoma City to Newton, Kansas, where it could connect with the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief.

The resolution adopted by Kansas lawmakers said “numerous studies conducted by universities in Texas and Kansas have determined the economic benefit of Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer passenger rail service and its extension to be at least three to one for every dollar spent.”

The Heartland Flyer, which is funded by the states of Oklahoma and Texas, currently operates once a day between Oklahoma City an Fort Worth, Texas.

Amtrak to Match SW Chief Route Grant

January 12, 2019

The Rail Passengers Association reported this week that it has learned that Amtrak will provide matching funds for a federal grant to be used to install positive train control on a portion of the route of the Southwest Chief.

The $9.2 million CRISI grant was awarded to the departments of transportation of Kansas and Colorado in partnership with Amtrak and host railroad BNSF.

The grant money will pay for the design, installation, and testing of PTC on about 179 miles of the Chief’s route between Dodge City, Kansas, and Las Animas, Colorado.

The development appears to represent an about face by Amtrak, which had earlier refused to honor its agreement to provide $3 million in matching funds for a $16 million federal TIGER grant won by a New Mexico county for rebuilding the route of the Chief in that state.

The RPA said it doesn’t know the status of Amtrak’s matching funds for the TIGER grant but it continues to lobby the passenger carrier to honor its agreement.

The Southwest Chief operates daily between Chicago and Los Angeles.

DOT Awards PTC Grant to SW Chief Route

December 21, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a $9.16 million grant to to help pay for installation of positive train control on the route used by the Amtrak’s Southwest Chief between Dodge City, Kansas, and Las Animas, Colorado.

The grant came through DOT’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. It was sought by the Colorado and Kansas departments of transportation and Amtrak.

The two state DOTs and Amtrak will contributed a 20 percent match of $2.29 million to the federal government’s 80 percent contribution toward the PTC project’s cost.

PTC will be installed on 179 miles of the mostly single-track on the line which is part of the BNSF La Junta Subdivision.

Amtrak had indicated earlier this year that it would refuse to operate Nos. 3 and 4 between Dodge City and Albuquerque next year because the route lacks PTC.

Instead, Amtrak proposed putting through passengers on a bus between the two points, which drew the ire of Congress, state policy makers and passenger train advocates

Last October Amtrak said it would continue rail service as-is through the end of fiscal-year 2019 on Oct. 1, 2019.

Private Operator Taking Over Heartland Flyer May be Key to Returning Rail Service to Wichita

September 21, 2016

Amtrak hasn’t served Wichita, Kansas, since October 1979 when the Chicago-Houston Lone Star was discontinued in a massive route restructuring designed to cut costs.

Now Kansas officials are hoping that Iowa Pacific Holdings can be the ticket to restoring rail service by extending the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Wichita; Newton, Kansas; or Kansas City.

Heartland FlyerThe Flyer is a student-supported train that currently operates between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, where it connects with the Chicago-San Antonio Texas Eagle.

Iowa Pacific has been mentioned as a potential operator of the Heartland Flyer. Oklahoma is seeking proposals from entities willing to run the Flyer at presumably less cost than what the Oklahoma and Texas departments of transportation are now paying Amtrak.

The two states are paying Amtrak about $2.5 million and $3.5 million a year, from Texas and Oklahoma respectively, to operate the service, which serves more than 70,000 passengers a year.

Continued operation of the Heartland Flyer was in question earlier this year when an Oklahoma lawmaker said the state didn’t have the money to pay for the train.

But the Oklahoma Legislature approved used money from a $5 million annual revolving fund that supports the Heartland Flyer to make up the budget shortfall.

Kenna Carmen, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the state has enough funds to keep the Flyer running through the next fiscal year.

IP more than a year ago took over from Amtrak operation of the quad-weekly Hoosier State between Chicago and Indianapolis and has received acclaim for improving the service.

IP has been identified as one of seven potential bidders to take over the Heartland Flyer.

Ed Ellis, the head of IP, said the key to bringing costs down is charging passengers more for enhanced service – something he bets they’re willing to pay.

“They would love to have a better travel experience even if it costs more money,” Ellis said.

Although Wichita is not served by Amtrak, a Thruway bus connects the city with the Heartland Flyer at Oklahoma City.
Extending the Flyer into Kansas could cost more than $100 million for additional equipment and such capital costs as track improvements and new stations.

Officials say that the state of finances in Kansas state government means that cities to be served by the Flyer would have to to cover the operating costs that ordinarily the states would pick up.

“It’s one of those situations where it’s going to take broad-based support,” said John Maddox, program director for rail at the Kansas Department of Transportation.

Kansas is served by one Amtrak route, the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, which stops in Newton, about 25 miles north of Wichita.

The state was part of an effort to win a federal grant that was used to rebuild the tracks used by the Chief in western Kansas that kept it on its current route for the foreseeable future.

The Thruway bus that links Wichita and Oklahoma City also operates to Newton to connect with the Chief.