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How Rural Towns Succeeded in Keeping Amtrak's Southwest Chief Running

Cities as far-flung as Trinidad, Dodge City, and Lamy joined their efforts in recent years to keep the iconic Southwest Chief Amtrak route running.
November 10, 2015, 1pm PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jesse Paul reports that a "group of small, sleepy towns in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico banded together in the past three years after Amtrak warned it might be forced to end the Chief's iconic service through their communities."

The warning came with a $200 million price tag for track repairs on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe line that runs the Amtrak route. In the unlikely event of that funding materializing, "officials were plotting to reroute the beloved Chicago-to-Los Angeles train into Oklahoma and Texas," according to Paul.

A coordinated effort between rural towns in Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico, worked, however, by "began pressing their state governments, digging into their pockets and applying for millions of federal grant dollars to prevent the line from leaving for better track."

And in the past few months, the miracle seems to have taken hold, as a $15 million federal grant came through in October, making it the the second such grant in two years. That means "the train will keep rumbling through the foreseeable future," according to Paul.  

The article includes anecdotes from residents of the cities along the Southwest Chief line, as well as some data about the economic significance of Amtrak lines in rural communities. In some places, for instance, Amtrak is the only form of public transportation.

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, November 8, 2015 in The Denver Post
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