Amtrak Touching Local Bases Following Award of $15M Tiger Grant

Lamar Mayor Roger Stagner with Amtrak Officials

Lamar Mayor Roger Stagner with Amtrak Officials

Amtrak officials paid a visit November 4th, to several cities along the Southwest Chief route including La Junta and Lamar, promoting the latest federal $15M Tiger grant that will help repair track along the railway. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded the funding to La Junta which will be used to work on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Subdivision in Colorado and the Albuquerque Subdivision in New Mexico.

Lamar Depot & Welcome Center

Lamar Depot & Welcome Center

Major lengths of the track have needed upgrades for the past several years and safety concerns have prompted reducing the speed of passenger trains connecting cities along the route. To date, participating cities have raised $24M for the repair project which includes 39 miles of new rail in Colorado and 20 miles of new ties and ballast in New Mexico.  The funding has benefitted steel makers in Pueblo as 11,000 tons of rail will be needed for a project stretching from Las Animas, CO to Pierceville, KS at a price of $8.25M.  Mayor Roger Stagner and City Administrator John Sutherland, along with Prowers County Commissioners, Wendy Buxton-Andrade and Ron Cook, were on hand to speak with the Amtrak representatives during their visit to Lamar.

Marc Magliari, spokesman for Government Affairs and Corporate Communications said officials wanted to visit and thank the communities along the route for their commitment to the improved rail lines. He said the two Tiger Grants have helped enormously, “Right now, the repairs are concentrating on the worst of the worst for the BNSF rail lines.”   He added that the support has gained national recognition for upgrading the tracks and providing alternative transportation for rural communities.

He explained that the normal track speed for the terrain in this part of the country is 79mph. “As the rail, which is 50 or more years old deteriorates, for safety reasons the train has to go slower.  We won’t operate at an unsafe speed on a worn out track.  Our people are paid hourly and the cost of providing the service is more if the train is going slower and if you don’t make good enough time across the country, you need more trains and people to operate the train to get to Chicago or Las Angeles on time.”  He said the new rails will increase reliability and speeds for service, as well as increased ridership due to the publicity that has developed from the grants and improvements.  “We want to be a dependable partner for you and general economic development for this part of Colorado, Kansas and a part of New Mexico,” he added.  Magliari mentioned that BNSF has shown a commitment that, now that the line is being physically improved, they will be more prone to maintain the reliability of the line and service in the future.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHot TopicsLamarProwers CountyPublic SafetyTourismTransportation


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