Southwest Chief Commission Continues Work Despite Legislative Setbacks

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Credit Maggie Spencer / 91.5 KRCC

Colorado’s Southwest Chief commission met Friday, just days after $1.5 million in funding amendments were stripped from the House’s state budget proposal and another funding bill was put on indefinite hold. 

The commission is tasked with finding money for the route, including needed repairs to the tracks and for possibly adding a stop in Pueblo.  

The Amtrak long-distance passenger train runs from Chicago to Los Angeles through southern Colorado.  While a looming deadline for funding badly needed repairs has been eased, the route is not completely out of the woods yet.

Jim Souby, commission member and President of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, or ColoRail, says he’s disappointed at the legislative results, but their work isn’t done.

"It would have been easy to just throw in the towel and say. 'Oh, we didn’t get our appropriation, we’ll just have to wait until next year,'" says Souby. "Instead, we said, ‘No, we’re not going to wait another day. We’re going to start working on a different approach to this and see if we can’t pull this off this year.' And anything we do this year helps us next year."

Souby says the commission is preparing to seek a federal transportation grant this year, and plans to ask the Colorado Department of Transportation for assistance in matching funds. 

Last year, Colorado was part of a successful bid for a $12.5 million federal transportation grant.