Federal grant to pay for PTC on part of 'Chief' route

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A Southwest Chief inspection train hosting community leaders pauses at La Junta, Colo, on Aug 4, 2016. A federal grant will pay for the installation of PTC on the Chief's route between Dodge City, Kan., and Las Animas, Colo., near La Junta.
Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — In a boost to efforts to maintain the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, a federal grant will pay for installation of positive train control on 179 miles of track between Dodge City, Kan., and Las Animas, Colo.

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D) announced Thursday that the U.S. Department of Transportation was awarding a federal $9.16 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grant to cover the installation, which covers trackage hosting BNSF freight traffic as well as the Chief. The route west of Trinidad, Colo., to Lamy, N.M. only see the daily passenger train in each direction.

Colorado led the application process and was joined in providing a $2.29-million, 20-percent match by Kansas and Amtrak, which contributed $770,000, to secure a total of $11.45 million needed for the project.

“This grant will allow for the expansion of PTC onto a part of the Amtrak route system that does not currently have it, and is consistent with our ongoing systemwide safety initiative,” Amtrak’s Senior Director of Government Affairs, Ray Lang, says in a statement thanking the state for its leadership.

Jim Souby, president of the Colorado Rail Passengers Association, adds, “Many in Congress don’t realize how important these passenger rail services are to our western rural communities. This is an important step in a long campaign, and we are honored Senator Bennet has helped by continuing his support.

While the investment helps one part of the route, a $25 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery grant won by Colfax County, Colo., for New Mexico improvements still awaits a $3 million match from Amtrak before it can be finalized.

“We’re continuing to work with the stakeholders regarding that segment,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari tells Trains News Wire, adding that Amtrak’s plans are to maintain service on all current routes through Sept. 30, 2019, the end of the passenger railroad’s current fiscal year.

Sen. Bennet was among legislators instrumental in inserting language in a pending omnibus appropriation conference committee report directing Amtrak to furnish the match, but the bill has yet to be acted on.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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