Southwest Chief gets more funding
The Federal Railroad Administration has granted $5.6 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements funding to stabilize and rehabilitate the route of the Amtrak Southwest Chief in Colorado and New Mexico.
Combined with $4.9 million in Amtrak federal funds set aside for this service and $1 million from the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT), a total of $11.5 million will be invested from Trinidad to south of Lamy, N.M.
This is the fifth federal grant for the route segment in these two states and Kansas. There is still a significant need for component renewal and restoration of the line to bring it to a more robust condition. When these improvements and others are complete, it will remain a productive route for decades to come.
Between 2016 and 2020, Amtrak has committed $15.8 million in direct funding for the route of the Southwest Chief and an additional $12.8 million in matching funds to previously awarded federal grants.
Amtrak has also invested between $4 and $8 million annually in this segment, outside of any grant programs, including selective installation of ties, replacing bolted rail in curves, and bridge or culvert repair.
“Starting in 2014, a team of elected and private officials formed a coalition with Amtrak that has been successful as shown by matching funds from the states and Amtrak, the political backing for the train by the region’s Congressional delegation, and the continued support by the cities, counties, and communities alongside the railway,” said Bill Flynn, Amtrak president and chief executive officer in a statement.
“Our past and current investments, from Kansas through Colorado and New Mexico, demonstrate our commitment to the Chief route and also preserve this segment for eventual inclusion in a north-south connection along the Front Range between Denver and Albuquerque, via Colorado Springs and Pueblo.”
Project engineering and construction under the current grant will be carried out by the BNSF Railway Engineering Department and the Rio Metro Regional Transportation District, the latter which manages the NMDOT infrastructure.
Work is expected to begin in 2021 and carry into 2022.
Officials said that new ties will be installed on a 31-mile section south of Raton Pass and another 6-mile segment in New Mexico, more than 12 miles of bolted rail will be converted to welded rail between Lamy and where Rio Metro’s Rail Runner commuter traffic diverges to Santa Fe, and the decks of two bridges will be rebuilt, along with three grade crossings.
The grant also will fund additional stabilization and protection measures.
Chieftain reporter Anthony A. Mestas can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or attwitter.com/mestas3517. Help support local journalism with a subscription to the Chieftain atchieftain.com/subscribenow.