Bipartisan Coalition of Senators Secures $3 Million Grant Match for Southwest Chief

TIGER Grant & funding partnerships will result in an investment of more than $26 million in the Southwest Chief

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) – all senators who represent states through which the Southwest Chief route runs – today announced that Amtrak at long last will provide $3 million in matching funds to complete the federal TIGER IX grant awarded in January of 2018 for safety upgrades and maintenance on the train’s route in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico.

“As the divide between urban and rural communities in America continues to expand, passenger rail services like the Southwest Chief are valuable in connecting Kansans to the rest of the country,” said Sen. Moran. “Local communities whose residents and businesses depend on Amtrak should be provided the stability of rail service that the Southwest Chief has delivered to them for decades, which is why I am pleased that Amtrak has upheld its commitment to repair, improve and continue the Southwest Chief rail line. I appreciate my colleagues from New Mexico and Colorado and our bipartisan efforts to keep this line in service.”

“Thanks to the tireless efforts of local communities and bipartisan work in Congress, Amtrak will fulfill its promise to match $3 million in TIGER funding,” said Sen. Udall. “This critical grant will fund badly needed improvements to the Southwest Chief rail line, and keep it rolling down the tracks from Raton to Gallup and beyond. Today’s funding is part of the $50 million in additional money that we secured in the most recent appropriations bill, and this major investment in rural infrastructure will ensure a strong and stable future for this historic route, support construction jobs, and benefit our economy. As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep working with New Mexico communities, Amtrak leadership, and other stakeholders to make sure this engine of economic growth will keep chugging long into the future.”

“I am pleased Kansans will continue to have access to long-distance Amtrak routes and improved rail service when riding the Southwest Chief,” said Sen. Roberts. “This service is important to our rural riders.”

“I’m pleased Amtrak is keeping their commitment to the maintain the Southwest Chief route. This funding will make much-needed repairs and improvements to upgrade this important long-distance passenger rail service,” said Sen. Heinrich. “The Southwest Chief isn't just a railroad route in New Mexico, every summer it brings thousands of Scouts from around the country to New Mexico’s Philmont Scout Ranch and generates economic activity in our communities. I’ve been proud to work with this bipartisan coalition that has fought to save the Southwest Chief and will continue fighting to protect this essential service for our communities and ensure the long-term viability of the route.” 

“Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line is critical to the economic development of our rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado, and this funding is great news for our state,” said Sen. Gardner. “For years, I have worked with my colleagues and our state and local partners to support the Southwest Chief, and this funding is an important step forward and fulfills Amtrak’s previous commitment. Going forward, I’ll continue my efforts to support Colorado’s transportation priorities at the federal level.”

“We joined a coalition of community leaders years ago and pledged to find the funding to keep the Southwest Chief line running,” said Sen. Bennet. “Today’s TIGER Grant rewards the dedication of leaders across Southern Colorado and again validates the importance of the Southwest Chief. I'll continue to work with my colleagues from Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas to support long-distance train service and other infrastructure projects that benefit rural communities." 

Earlier this month, Congress passed and the president signed the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related (THUD) Appropriations Act, which sets aside $50 million of Amtrak’s appropriations for long-term maintenance and safety improvements on lines like the Southwest Chief.

Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by Kansas, New Mexico and Colorado. This grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in the Southwest Chief. The legislation also prohibits Amtrak from replacing long-distance train service with buses.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles and connects towns and cities in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California, and provides passenger train and long-distance passenger service, particularly through rural communities.

Timeline of the senators’ work:  

  • This month, Congress passed and the president signed the FY2019 THUD Appropriations Act, which provides $50 million of Amtrak’s appropriations for long-term maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief.
  • On August 1, 2018, the Senate approved the senators’ amendment to maintain Southwest Chief train services.
  • On July 31, 2018, the senators introduced an amendment advocating for Southwest Chief.
  • On July 26, 2018, the senators sent a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson urging him to uphold Amtrak’s side of a longstanding public-private partnership to continue operating the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service.
  • On July 25, 2018, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a Sense of the Congress measure to affirm support for the long-distance rail service.
  • In June 2018, the senators met with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to discuss solutions for the Southwest Chief and to encourage more transparency in Amtrak’s decision-making.
  • On May 31, 2018, the senators sent a bipartisan, multi-state lettercondemning Amtrak’s decision not to match TIGER Grant funds.