Senators' amendment pressures Amtrak to honor 'Southwest Chief' pledge

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Baggage is unloaded from the Southwest Chief at Lamy, N.M.
Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — An amendment offered by two U.S. senators, pressuring Amtrak for its effort to add conditions to its pledge of funding for work on the route of the Southwest Chief, has advanced in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

A Friday news release from the office of Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said the amendment to the 2019 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations bill, offered by Udall and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), would “strongly encourage Amtrak to consult with stakeholders before adding conditions to any grant funds.” Amtrak has recently added such conditions to its $3 million pledge to matching funds for a $16 million grant for repair and upgrading of the Chief route [see “Amtrak contribution to ‘Southwest Chief’ grant comes with conditions,” Trains News Wire, April 4, 2018.]

“The Southwest Chief is an engine of economic growth in New Mexico that connects rural communities from Raton to Gallup,” Udall said in the release. “I was pleased when the Southwest Chief received its latest TIGER grant — federal funding that been a big help in making badly-needed improvements to ensure a strong and stable future for the Southwest Chief in New Mexico. But Amtrak is threatening to pull out the rug from the New Mexico communities that are undertaking these critical repairs. That’s why I fought to ensure New Mexico has access to the funding we need and continue to have a say as we work to keep the Southwest Chief chugging long into the future.”

It was the second amendment to the appropriations bill in as many days addressed at recent Amtrak actions. On Thursday, an amendment by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was added to the bill which would require Amtrak to maintain at least one station agent in every state it serves [See “Senator amends bill to require Amtrak station agents,” Trains News Wire, June 8, 2018.]

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