Bipartisan Senators To House THUD Appropriators: Preserve Funding For Southwest Chief

New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas Senators call on House Committee on Appropriations to preserve $50 million in federal funding in the FY19 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill to maintain Amtrak's Southwest Chief

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 11, 2018) -  U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are calling on the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development to preserve funding included in the fiscal year 2019 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill to maintain Amtrak train service along the long-distance Southwest Chief route. 

The lawmakers successfully included funding in the Senate-passed version of the bill for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route and language to compel Amtrak to fulfill its promise of matching funding for the successful TIGER IX discretionary grant supported by local communities in New Mexico along the route. Their provision would effectively halt Amtrak's proposal to substitute rail service with bus service over large segments of the route through FY19.  

"Long-distance passenger rail provide much-needed transportation access for over four million riders in 325 communities in 40 States. We are deeply concerned that Amtrak is considering suspending operation of the Southwest Chief and is recommending a plan to replace long-distance train service along the route with bus service. The suspension of rail service along the Southwest Chief route raises serious questions as to whether long-distance passenger rail service will be eliminated in rural communities across the country," said Heinrich, Udall, Roberts, Bennet, Moran, and Gardner, who represent states through which the Southwest Chief route runs, in a letter today to House Committee on THUD Appropriations Chairman Mario Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member David Price.

In many cases, the line is the only affordable alternative transportation option to the highways, and is a critical link to public and private services in larger cities along the route for rural residents. The Southwest Chief stops in several New Mexico communities, including Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque, and Gallup. Every summer, the Southwest Chief transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M., generating economic activity for businesses in these rural areas along the way.

The full text of the letter is below and available here.

The Honorable Mario Diaz-Balart
Chairman
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
2358-A Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable David Price
Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development
2358-A Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Diaz-Balart and Ranking Member Price:

As you work to finalize funding for the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019, we respectfully ask that you preserve funding included in the Senate appropriations bill to maintain Amtrak train service along the long-distance Southwest Chief route.

Long-distance passenger rail provide much-needed transportation access for over four million riders in 325 communities in 40 States. We are deeply concerned that Amtrak is considering suspending operation of the Southwest Chief and is recommending a plan to replace long-distance train service along the route with bus service. The suspension of rail service along the Southwest Chief route raises serious questions as to whether long-distance passenger rail service will be eliminated in rural communities across the country.

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles and connects towns and cities in Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California. This connectivity is vital to the people and communities the Southwest Chief serves. In many cases, the line is the only affordable alternative transportation option to the highways for our citizens, and is a critical link to public and private services in larger cities along the route for rural residents. Every summer, the Southwest Chief also transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, N.M., generating economic activity for businesses in these rural areas along the way.

During Senate consideration of the THUD Appropriations bill, the Senate adopted a bipartisan amendment to provide funding for maintenance and safety improvements to help maintain Amtrak train service along the Southwest Chief route. The amendment builds upon Senate adoption of a bipartisan sense of Congress emphasizing strong support for long-distance passenger rail routes like the Southwest Chief.

We believe that this amendment should be included in the final THUD Appropriations bill and look forward to working with you to make this critical investment in our rural communities. Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

Sincerely,