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Bennet, Gardner Raise Concerns Over Amtrak Withholding Funding for Southwest Chief Route

Colorado Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R), with a bicameral group of lawmakers, today urged Amtrak to uphold its side of a longstanding public-private partnership to maintain the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service. The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and stops in several Colorado communities, including Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad.

Bipartisan lawmakers across three states wrote to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, requesting a meeting to discuss concerns with Amtrak considering withholding its contribution to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) award under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) to Colfax County, New Mexico, and the detrimental impact such a decision will have on operation of the Southwest Chief.

“The Southwest Chief is vital to the economic well-being of our communities,” the lawmakers wrote. “In many cases, the line is the only affordable alternative transportation option to the highways for our citizens, and is an important link to public and private services in larger cities along the route for rural residents, including the elderly and disabled.”

“The lack of transparency by Amtrak management about its changing position on the Southwest Chief is troubling, particularly for a Government-Sponsored Enterprise entrusted with an important public transportation mission,” the lawmakers continued. “We request Amtrak take the lead in developing cooperative plans to ensure the Southwest Chief’s successful operation, including seeking funding from the various federal grant programs established to address these specific issues. These programs were well-funded in the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill as was Amtrak itself. It is essential these available funds be applied across the system to address national priorities such as maintaining the Southwest Chief on its current route.”