Colorado communities to subsidize federally funded Amtrak repair


OFF THE RAILS: Colorado town are helping to fund necessary Amtrak repairs.

By Joshua Sharf |

A consortium headed by Garden City, Kan., that includes several communities in Colorado has received a federal Department of Transportation TIGER grant to replace roughly 50 miles of track along Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

However, an additional 100 miles of track will need to be replaced over the next 10 years to ensure that Amtrak’s trains can continue to operate at their preferred speed of 79 mph.

The nearly $12.5 million comes as a result of $9.3 million in matching funds from Amtrak, BNSF, which owns the track, and a number of Colorado and Kansas communities along the route, with Colorado contributions totaling $250,000. The route runs from western Kansas through southeastern Colorado and across Raton Pass into New Mexico. Amtrak is scheduled to receive $340 million in federal subsidies this year, down from $1.3 billion last year.

The grant will permit BNSF to replace approximately 50 miles of the most deteriorated track, upgrading it to Class IV, and BNSF has committed to maintaining the track at that quality. While the grant application specifies 55 miles of track to be replaced, BNSF stated in comments to Watchdog Wire that it is still evaluating which sections of rail are the most in need of replacement.

BNSF didn’t speculate on the cost of fixing the additional 100 miles of line, although a simple extrapolation from the cost of the current project would put it at between $45 million and $50 million. The grant applications points out that BNSF simply doesn’t have the freight traffic on that section of line to justify spending $23 million of its own money on track replacement.

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