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Published on : Saturday, August 6, 2016
Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman today completed a three-state trip on the Southwest Chief route in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, thanking local, state and federal leaders for their partnership with Amtrak and BNSF Railway to preserve and improve the route for Amtrak and BNSF customers.
Also aboard segments of the inspection train tour were BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose, Interim Kansas Transportation Secretary Richard Carlson, and other state, local and federal officials.
Amtrak and BNSF began a public conversation in 2012 regarding deteriorating rail conditions that would have slowed BNSF freight traffic and led Amtrak to permanently detour or discontinue the Southwest Chief service. Since then, successful grant applications led by Garden City, Kan., and La Junta, Colo., have resulted in $27.6 million in federal TIGER funding in the past two years.
When matching state and community support and contributions from Amtrak ($8 million), BNSF ($4 million) and other communities are combined with the TIGER grants, a total of $46.2 million will result in 127 miles of replacement of rails and ties nearing the end of their service between Hutchinson, Kan., and Waldo, New Mexico.
Additionally, BNSF has agreed to maintain the track at a maximum speed of 79 mph for Amtrak and 60 mph for freight trains where the jointed rail has been replaced. The replacement rail has come from a plant in Pueblo, Colo., and has been installed by BNSF crews.
“Since my service has Amtrak CEO began in 2008, Amtrak and BNSF have worked together to match federal grants with investments from both of our railroads, states and towns. On the Amtrak Empire Builder route in North Dakota and here on the Key Amtrak Statistics
• 2,265 mile route
• Serves 33 communities in 8 states
• Generates 4.5% of Amtrak’s passenger miles
• 40% of all customers travel to or from a point between Newton and Albuquerque
• Average customer travels 774 miles
• In FY 2015:
• 367,267 riders
• $44.9M in ticket revenue
Amtrak Southwest Chief route in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, we seen leadership that brings everyone to the table and finds solutions.“Together, we have improved the railroad for Amtrak and BNSF customers, strengthening critical links across states and connecting communities with little or no other intercity public transportation options,” Boardman said.
In coming years, more grants and more investments in matching funds will be needed to continue to make needed improvements over the Raton Pass on this route in New Mexico, the steepest and highest BNSF crossing of the Rocky Mountains, and on to Lamy, near Santa Fe.
The full Amtrak Southwest Chief route is operated daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, via Kansas City and Albuquerque. Amtrak has also conducted research for a state commission in Colorado that shows the benefits of an Amtrak service that would connect Pueblo with the Southwest Chief at La Junta, Colo.