New Mexico Democrats Announce $16 Million Grant to Repair Southwest Chief Line in NM
Key upgrades will ensure rail continues to connect rural communities, enhance tourism in NM
WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded New Mexico’s Colfax County a $16 million grant to replace segments of aging rail line on which Amtrak’s Southwest Chief operates. The grant, which was awarded under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, will fund critical repair work in New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and stops in several New Mexico communities, including Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque, and Gallup. The members of the New Mexico delegation, along with lawmakers from Colorado and Kansas, wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of this TIGER grant application in October 2017.
Initial estimates indicated that over $100 million was needed to upgrade the portions of the line operating in New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado to meet passenger train standers. Two former TIGER grants enabled large sections of the Southwest Chief’s rail line to be repaired. This final TIGER grant will provide the funding needed to repair and rehabilitate this last rail line section, based primarily in New Mexico, with the same updates installed on the rest of the line.
“The Southwest Chief is an engine of economic growth in New Mexico that connects rural communities from Raton to Gallup,” Udall said. “This critical grant will fund badly-needed improvements to ensure a strong and stable future for the Southwest Chief in New Mexico. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep fighting for investments in rural infrastructure that benefit the economy and link communities across our state."
“Investments in our rural transportation infrastructure are critical to spurring economic development,” said Heinrich. “The Southwest Chief isn't just a railroad route in New Mexico, it connects communities like Gallup and Las Vegas to the rest of the nation and boosts the local economy. Every summer, the Southwest Chief transports thousands of Boy Scouts from across the country to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, generating economic activity for businesses in these rural areas along the way. This grant will ensure much-needed repairs and improvements to rail line are made to keep the Southwest Chief on track to continue service of this route.”
“Amtrak’s Southwest Chief has long been an economic driver for New Mexico and the improvements funded by this grant will ensure its continued vitality in our state,” said Luján. “This grant provides the kind of infrastructure investment New Mexico needs and that I will continue to fight for in Congress.”
"I’m proud to announce this new investment to provide much needed infrastructure improvements to New Mexico’s rail service,” said Lujan Grisham. "Safe and efficient transportation networks support New Mexico’s economy through the movement of goods and services while also benefiting communities by improving access to work, school, and health facilities."
The project will build on previous awards made under TIGER 6 and TIGER 7 by replacing 60-year old bolted rail, associated turnouts and crossings for a net gain of 42 miles of Class 4 rail in the La Junta subdivision between Hutchinson, Kan., and Las Animas, Colo. The project will also replace older rail ties in a 200-mile section of rail between Lamy, N.M., and Trinidad, Colo. Finally, the project will construct a series of improvements to the NMRX commuter rail route in New Mexico including the replacement of the signaling system, replacement of a damaged culvert, replacement of a half-mile of track along the Devil’s Throne curve, and installation of a rock slide fence and warning signal at the Devil’s Throne Curve.