Local News

Keeping the Southwest Chief passenger train in southern Colorado

PUEBLO, Colo. - Colorado, along with Kansas and New Mexico, could lose the Amtrak Southwest Chief if rail lines are not improved.

The train route goes from Los Angeles to Chicago.

It makes stops in Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad.

"The train is important to the city of Trinidad and southern Colorado," Trinidad Mayor Joseph Reorda said.

Amtrak is giving the states until 2015 to figure out how to fix the tracks; if it isn't fixed, it could either reroute or discontinue the ride.

Colorado Rep. Leroy Garcia is looking for a solution.

"Saving the Southwest Chief is a primary focus," Garcia said.

He presented a bill to the state legislature that would set up a fund and a commission to manage the funds. It would collect money from any investors, including the state.

"Part of the efforts of the Legislature is to do $4 million a year appropriation the next 10 years," Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace said.

The money set up by the fund wouldn't be spent on track maintenance until Amtrak approves a stop in Pueblo for the Chief.

Garcia said this move would help bring in more customers.

"(Amtrak) needs to see more ridership to make it feasible to stay in Colorado," he said.

Garcia said putting a stop in Pueblo would help with track repairs since Evraz, a steel manufacturer in Pueblo, is the largest producer of rail in North America.

Reorda said he hopes Colorado can keep the route.

"A lot of people, they don't want to travel in cars, and it's less expensive to ride the train than it is to fly," he said.

Fixing the track would cost about $200 million.

Pace said the cost will be split between Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad.

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