A big topic of discussion at the June 6 meeting of the Bent County Commissioners was an email sent from La Junta City Manager Rick Klein regarding a BUILD grant: the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grant program.
“We are going for the BUILD grant (TIGER 10) to finish off the original deal that Amtrak came to us to help on in 2011,” said Klein in the email.
The acronym TIGER stands for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery and is a grant program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In the email, which Klein also sent to representatives in Prowers County and Trinidad, he said Amtrak has informed the Southwest Chief and Front Range Rail Commission that the numbers for a through-train from La Junta to Pueblo is feasible.
Klein also said, "We are hoping to have a ballet question for Front Range rail from Cheyenne to Trinidad in 2020.
"We are asking for $12,500 from each entity, if you can," continued Klein. "Please let me know as soon as possible. Grant is due early next month, so we are in a time crunch to write."
Feik spoke about how the original goal of the TIGER grants was to target the worst parts of the track, with an overall goal of replacing all of the track between Garden City, Kan., and Albuquerque. The final grant being pursued by the city of La Junta essentially would finish the upgrade that’s been started by the past grants.
“Part of the agreement with this is that Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico all provided funding,” said Feik. “Part of the agreement also includes that Burlington Northern Santa Fe has agreed to provide the maintenance on the tracks, to maintain it at its level if it's upgraded.”
The County Commissioners had a lot of discussion about whether the grant would help the county.
“It would be beneficial for our people to be able to get on a train, even if it was driving to La Junta … hopping the train and being able to take that to Colorado Springs,” said County Commissioner Kim MacDonnell.
MacDonnell also brought up the point that she wouldn’t want to pay the same amount as the places that had stops.
These issues and the lack of information about the new grant led the commissioners to table the discussion about contributing to a later date.
The new grant, however, was not the only railroad grant issue discussed at Thursday’s meeting. In the past, Bent County had approved giving $6,000 to a TIGER grant that was never used because it was held up, due to the uncertainty at the time surrounding the railroad.
The county already had budgeted in the past or the grant, so when it came time to approve the $6,000 contribution, the motion passed unanimously.