Passenger Rail Kansas is a grass roots advocacy organization, dedicated to the preservation and expansion of service in Kansas and the surrounding region.
Thank You to Roots on the Rails
June 17, 2018
Thank You to Roots on the Rails for being the first sponsor of our upcoming special event. We are in the planning stages of a fall meeting to support Southwest Chief preservation. The Southwest Chief must survive if we are to have any chance of preserving hopes for Heartland Flyer expansion north of Oklahoma City with stops in Edmond, Guthrie, Perry, Ponca City, Arkansas City, Wichita, Newton, Emporia, Topeka, Lawrence, and Kansas City.
Roots on the Rails is a unique experience, combining live musical performances with private rail car luxury. Take a trip with them in the future! We plan on doing so soon.
Update - Congress Pushes Back
June 17, 2018
On April 4, 2018, Bob Johnston, of Trains Magazine reported on a new challenge for Southwest Chief service. In his article, Amtrak contribution to a 'Southwest Chief' grant comes with conditions Johnston describes how new Amtrak management has decided to withhold a promised $3 million match for a Colfax County, New Mexico USDOT TIGER IX Southwest Chief Route Stabilization award. Amtrak's match is contingent upon the states of Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and other partners developing a financial strategy to fully fund Southwest Chief route repairs. The TIGER grant was awarded by the USDOT in early March. The conditions are unprecidented and indicate Amtrak's new mangement is sour to not just the Southwest Chief but long distance services in general.
In response, on May 31, 2018, US Senator Martin Heinrich issued a bipartisan, bicameral letter to new Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, condemning the decision to withhold the matching funds. The letter also requested a meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson. Signing members from the Kansas delegation include US Senator Pat Roberts (R), US Senator Jerry Moran (R), and Representative Lynn Jenkins (R). We thank all of the US Senators and US Representatives who co-signed this letter. We encourage you to contact their offices with an email of thanks as well.
On June 8, 2018 US Senator Tom Udall upped the ante by amending a bill calling for Amtrak to staff at least one agent in each state the carrier serves. The amendment is intended to ensure the Southwest Chief has access to necessary funds to continue its operation. We will keep you posted.
Internal Amtrak Threats to Southwest Chief Operation Emerge
May 13, 2018
On March 9, 2018 Colfax County, New Mexico received notification from the USDOT of its successful Southwest Chief Route Stabilization Project (SWCRSP) TIGER Grant request. The grant award is slated to plow $16 million in federal funds into the project, but there is a catch. Unlike prior SWCRSP awards (Garden City in 2014 and La Junta in 2015), Amtrak attached strings to its promised $3 million match.
According to a Trains Magazine report, Amtrak contribution to 'Southwest Chief' grant comes with conditions, by Bob Johnston, dated April 4, 2018, Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer William N. Feidt indicated Amtrak’s promised match is conditional. Amtrak’s letter attached to the grant application included the following requirement:
“Before Amtrak will fulfill this contribution, a comprehensive financial plan and accompanying commitments by relevant states and BNSF for the remainder of the infrastructure investments and associated maintenance costs for this route in New Mexico must be completed.”
Retired Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman publicly criticized Amtrak’s new executive staff. In the same Trains Magazine article He stated, “One of the things I learned working on these kinds of things, is that if you fail to move when you have an opportunity to move, you’re probably going to fail to get this done.”
Boardman has continued his criticism since the Trains article. He penned his own opinion published in Railway Age Magazine May 10, 2018 Amtrak: Where is the public input? Where is the transparency? He accused Amtrak executive staff of “weaponizing” safety to attack Amtrak’s network of fifteen long distance trains, including the Southwest Chief. New Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson has threatened to discontinue operations of any Amtrak operated train over routes where Positive Train Control is not installed and operating. This means the Southwest Chief could make its last run in December.
Anderson also stated his desire to refocus Amtrak structure on routes of between 300 to 400-miles in length. His visibly annoyed answer to comments are available in an April 19, 2018 question and answer session at the California Passenger Rail Summit. (audio link – Anderson’s comments begin at 1:46:00)
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief serves Kansas nightly with stops in Lawrence, Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Garden City. The route operates between Chicago and Los Angeles through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Contact information for Kansas’s Washington D.C. delegation is included on the GovTrack website: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/KS
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