Wouldnt it be nice if the existing rail routes were just upgraded to higher speeds? Yes? How about we look at one route that might seem important: Chicago to Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief.
Amtrak, which has operated the Southwest Chief since 1971, has asked Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to each pitch in $40 million over 20 years to help pay for track upgrades and maintenance it says are needed to keep the route viable. But some state officials are balking, saying that Amtrak, which draws financial support from the federal government, should cover the costs itself.
The Southwest Chief, which runs in both directions once a day, needs to reach 79 miles per hour wherever possible to make its scheduled stops on time, Mr. Magliari said. If old track is not replaced soon, he added, the train will have to travel at slower speeds for longer distances.
Colorado could lose stops in the towns of Trinidad, Lamar and La Junta, each of which has a population of less than 9,000. These towns, like their New Mexico counterparts, have seen fortunes fade over the years, as coal mines, a military base and a bus factory all closed.
Leroy Garcia, a Democratic state representative from Colorado, recently introduced legislation to preserve the train route and add a stop in the city of Pueblo. Under his proposal, which has drawn bipartisan support from Colorado lawmakers, a commission would be created to find funding and figure out the cost for an additional stop.
“By adding the stop to Pueblo, you’d now have access to 165,000 more people in the county,” he said. “We have heard over and over that rural and southern Colorado is really struggling for jobs — this could serve as a hub for growth.”
Amtrak said that ridership on the route has held mostly steady over the years, at more than 250,000 passengers a year for the last decade.
The Southwest Chief is one of its top financial performers for long-distance trains, the company said, and keeping the route would help boost the economy of the region.
What a quandry. A front range hyperloop from Cheyenne to Pueblo would contribute so much more for the state and region than this line. Only thing to do is just raise more (Congressional) awareness.