Governor signs bill to keep Southwest Chief in Colorado

Governor signs bill to save Southwest Chief

PUEBLO, Colo. - Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill to help ensure that Amtrak's Southwest Chief continues running through the state.

The governor signed the bill at Union Depot Wednesday afternoon. It creates a commission responsible for securing $40 million to continue the service in Colorado. The nine members of the commission will work with officials in New Mexico and Kansas to make sure they also pledge that amount.

"Our desire is to demonstrate that we're willing to put some money on the table and see if they're willing to join forces. If they don't, it makes it much more difficult," Hickenlooper said.

The Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, but part of the track that runs through Colorado and neighboring states is in need of repair. Amtrak officials have stated they will reroute the train if maintenance doesn't improve. 

"The track was in such poor repair that they estimated it was going to be $80 to $100 million. That's a lot of money for Amtrak to come up with," Hickenlooper said.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace is hopeful New Mexico and Kansas will pass a similar law in their respective states. 

"We create this commission that is legally tasked with negotiating with Kansas, New Mexico, Burlington Northern and Amtrak on the cost and on the replacements," Pace said. "Up to this point, we never had a point of contact who would negotiate for the state of Colorado."

For Pace, a best-case scenario wouldn't just be saving the Chief. It's adding a stop in Pueblo. He told dozens at Union Depot that he dreams of a day that folks will be able to ride the Chief from Pueblo to Denver.

"Folks shouldn't think that we're going to have a stop here next year, but if we want to stop here in five years, this was a key stop in the process that needed to happen," Pace said.

Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas would each be responsible for spending $4 million a year over the next decade. 

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