Amtrak announced this week that it will provide matching funds to enable a federal grant to be awarded for safety and reliability upgrades on the Southwest Chief route in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.
Earlier in the month, Congress passed an appropriations bill which included critical funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail. The legislation set aside at least $50 million of its National Network grant for improvements to the Southwest Chief route. Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by these states, counties and cities and awarded to Colfax County, N.M. The grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million.
Amtrak and BNSF Railway began discussions regarding needed route safety and other infrastructure improvements back in 2011. Since then, more than $80 million has been committed from U.S. DOT grant programs, state and local governments, Amtrak, and BNSF.
Amtrak will use newly available federal capital funding in coordination with stakeholders to continue needed work on the next route segment in New Mexico. Amtrak also is working on a long-term financial plan with their state and local partners to address the unique challenges of this route, particularly where Amtrak is the only user of the BNSF tracks in Colorado and New Mexico.
The Southwest Chief provides a daily service between Chicago and Los Angeles, and is the shortest and fastest Amtrak route between those cities.