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Moran and colleagues urge AMTRAK to continue operation of Southwest Chief

Sacha SanguinettiJuly 27, 2018

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) today joined a group of bipartisan senators from states spanning the country in urging Amtrak to uphold its side of a longstanding public-private partnership to continue operating the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service, particularly through rural communities. The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles and connects towns and cities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The letter was led by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and was also signed by Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). The letter was sent to Amtrak President and CEO Richard H. Anderson and expresses deep concern that Amtrak is considering suspending operation of the Southwest Chief passenger train and is focusing on a plan to replace long-distance train service along the route with bus service.

“Long-distance passenger rail routes provide much-needed transportation access for over four million riders in 325 communities in 40 states,” the senators wrote. Replacing train service through rural communities with buses is troubling, particularly for a quasi-governmental entity entrusted with an important public transportation mission. The suspension of rail service along the Southwest Chief route raises serious questions as to whether passenger rail service will be eliminated in rural communities across the country.”

In many cases, the line is the only affordable alternative transportation option to highways and is a critical link to public and private services in larger cities along the route for rural residents. The Southwest Chief stops in several Kansas communities including Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City.

The full text of the letter is below and available here.

Mr. Richard H. Anderson, President and CEO
National Passenger Rail Corporation
1 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20001

 

Dear Mr. Anderson:

We write to express our deep concern that Amtrak is considering suspending operation of the Southwest Chief passenger train and is focusing on a plan to replace long-distance train service along the route with bus service. The potential suspension of rail service has raised serious concerns among our constituents who depend on the Southwest Chief. We strongly disagree with such a decision and urge you to uphold Amtrak’s commitment to intercity rail service across the entire national network, particularly through our rural communities.

Amtrak was created by Congress in 1970 to preserve intercity passenger rail service, while relieving private railroad companies of the obligation to provide passenger service. Long-distance passenger rail routes provide much-needed transportation access for over four million riders in 325 communities in 40 States. Replacing train service through rural communities with buses is troubling, particularly for a quasi-governmental entity entrusted with an important public transportation mission. The suspension of rail service along the Southwest Chief route raises serious questions as to whether passenger rail service will be eliminated in rural communities across the country.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles and connects towns and cities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. This connectivity is vital to the people and communities the Southwest Chief serves.  In many cases, the line is the only affordable alternative transportation option to the highways for our citizens, and is a critical link to public and private services in larger cities along the route for rural residents. Every summer, the Southwest Chief also transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M., generating economic activity for businesses in these rural areas along the way.

We recognize that capital investment is necessary to maintain the current route. We are pleased that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded multiple grants to replace segments of aging rail line on which Amtrak’s Southwest Chief operates and we request that Amtrak uphold its commitment to the TIGER IX grant. Further, we want to bring to your attention a recent Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program that includes more than $318 million in grant funding. 

While local stakeholders are working to find a responsible solution to ensure rail service, we urge you to consider the needs of our constituents, and A

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