Garden City, KS(westernkansasnews.com) Kansas U.S. Senator Jerry Moran visited the Amtrak station in Garden City Friday. Moran visited with city officials from Garden City and Dodge City to brief on the latest with his amendment to maintain Amtrak train services along the established, long-distance passenger rail route of the Southwest Chief.
“It’s important to Kansans and particularly in southwest Kansas and it has become a cause for cities in our state Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, Garden City, who have put a lot of effort and their own taxpayer dollars into a project that’s beginning to work and we didn’t want the rug pulled out from under that effort. For people with disabilities this is a method that they can get places,” said Moran.
The amendment came about when Amtrak announced it was ending rail service from Dodge City to Albuquerque and replacing it with buses.
“In my mind that meant the end of the Southwest Chief, it was just like nonchalant it wasn’t like we’ll work with you to solve it was just like this is where we’re headed, so the policy we still have to face is we do not have a friendly Amtrak management passenger rail service”, said Moran, “you can have an argument about what the role of federal government is in providing passenger rail service across the country, you can have the debate as to whether or not the American taxpayers should be subsidizing a rail that doesn’t pay for itself, but that decision has been made and it’s Amtrak’s responsibility to provide that service.”
Moran also said that he thinks it isn’t just the Southwest Chief, but that they are probably just the first to deal with this attitude from Amtrak.
“We hope to be able to bring to the cause other legislators, certainly those along the Southwest Chief, but we also want to be able to highlight for others like the Northern route for example they ought to have an interest in what we are doing to save the Southwest Chief, we have an issue that’s far from behind which is what is Amtrak’s plan?”
He said they still expect a report from Amtrak likely during a meeting with stakeholders in Colfax county, New Mexico on August 24. Moran also highlighted what he thinks they accomplished with the amendment.
“One pay the $3 million, two you can’t use a bus route, three you can’t abandon the line and four here’s $50 million to improve the track, it is only Amtrak that is obligated to maintain the line, so not only are they trying to walk away from the $3 million, but also the obligation to maintain the line,” said Moran.
Because it’s an appropriation bill it means the money is there for the next year from October 1 to September 30 2019. They also can’t abandon the line during that time. However Moran warned that they still have long term issues with Amtrak.
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