The United States Department of Transportation has notified the United States Senate that the City of Garden City will receive a TIGER Grant of $12,469,963 for the Southwest Chief Improvement Project.
The grant will be combined with $9,300,000 of state, local, and private funds and used to restore several miles of the La Junta subdivision of the Kansas Division of the BNSF railway, over which Amtrak’s Southwest Chief currently travels.
The Southwest Chief is a long-distance Amtrak passenger service that operates daily between Chicago and Los Angeles. According to railway engineers, the condition of the route has been deteriorating and, without intervention, would erode to the point where operation of the passenger train on the route would not be feasible.
The Southwest Chief provides critical passenger transportation for rural communities in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. In 2011, communities in those three states began working to address the infrastructure needs of the route. According to the communities, the TIGER funds represent a key component of the funding program and will be used to preserve passenger service along the route.
“This award is the culmination of work by a multitude of people in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico who recognize the importance of passenger rail to our communities,” Garden City Manager Matt Allen said. “This would not have been possible without the support of our elected representatives at the State level and at the Federal level. In particular, we would like to thank Senator Moran, Senator Roberts, Rep. Jenkins, KDOT Secretary Mike King, and former Senator Dole for championing this effort on our behalf.”
Improvements on the route will also have a long-term economic benefit to the state.
“In addition to preserving train speeds on the Southwest Chief route this project will also provide benefits to rural freight rail customers,” Secretary King said. “Improvements in train speeds, enhanced operating efficiency, and improvements in equipment utilization will provide economic benefits to Kansas businesses and farmers.”
Senator Dole said, “This was a great Kansas cooperative effort – carried out for many years – that brought together cities, the Brownback Administration, and our federal elected officials like Pat Roberts, Jerry Moran and Lynn Jenkins. When we all pull together, we can accomplish great things.”
Allen also expressed his gratitude to those entities that have contributed matching funds to the project. They are: Amtrak; BNSF; the Kansas Department of Transportation; the City of Dodge City, KS; the City of Garden City, KS; the City of Hutchinson, KS; the City of Newton, KS; the City of La Junta, CO; the City of Lamar, CO; the City of Trinidad, CO; Bent County, CO; Las Animas County, CO; Otero County, CO; Prowers County, CO; Pueblo County, CO; the I-25 Coalition; the Colorado Rail Passenger Association; and the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.