Southwest Chief Advocates Seek Federal Grant

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Credit Maggie Spencer / 91.5 KRCC

A new collaborative effort that crosses state lines has pledged more than $9 million as part of a grant application that would help keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route through Southern Colorado.  KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports. 

The funds are matching dollars in an application for a $15 million federal grant from the U. S. Department of Transportation, known as a TIGER grant.  Garden City, Kansas is the lead applicant, but communities including Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad are promising at least 10,000 dollars each.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace worked to secure commitments from southern Colorado communities, including 100,000 from Pueblo County. Pace says he’s optimistic.

"If this TIGER grant is successful," Pace said, "I think we’ll have replaced too much of the old line for us to turn in the wrong direction and start talking about rerouting the train through Amarillo and the southern route."

Amtrak is committing $4 million as part of the application, while BNSF, which owns the rail lines, has pledged $2 million.  BNSF also said the company would maintain the route for two decades at passenger rail speeds. 

The Southwest Chief currently runs from Chicago to Los Angeles through western Kansas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico, and needs an estimated $200 million in repairs in those states to prevent it from being rerouted.

Pace says he expects to know in late June or early July if the grant application is approved. 

A press release from Pueblo County lists the following Colorado entities as committed to funding (in alphabetical order):

Bent County: $14,000Colorado Rail Passenger Association: $1,000Colorado Springs (City of) and the I-25 Eco-Development Committee:  $75,000La Junta (City of): $10,000Lamar (City of): $10,000Las Animas County: $10,000Otero County: $10,000Prowers County: $10,000Pueblo County: $100,000Trinidad (City of): $10,000Trinidad Tourism Board: $4,000

Other funding commitments as part of the TIGER grant application:

Amtrak: $4 millionBNSF: $2 million, plus maintenance of the line for 20 years at passenger rail speedsKansas Department of Transportation: $3 million