Amtrak

Nadya Faulx / KMUW/File photo

Advocates for passenger rail are optimistic the $2 trillion infrastructure package President Joe Biden outlined this week could speed up efforts to bring service back to Wichita.

Amtrak plans to restart daily passenger service on its Southwest Chief route across Kansas beginning May 31.

In October, Amtrak cut the line’s daily service down to three days a week because of the pandemic. But the company says new federal COVID-19 relief funding will allow it to restore daily service on the Southwest Chief and 11 more of its long distance routes over the next few months.

Passenger trains will keep rolling through rural communities in Kansas, for now. But Amtrak still hasn’t committed to operating the long-distance routes that connect small towns to larger cities long-term.

Earlier this year, Congress agreed to an additional $50 million to keep the Southwest Chief, which travels from Chicago to Los Angeles with stops in several small Kansas cities, running through September.

Long-running frustration about Amtrak’s willingness to keep a rail passenger line running through remote parts of the country has politicians threatening to block new directors to the agency.

A handful of U.S. senators demanded specifics by this week about how Amtrak plans to spend an added $50 million to keep the Southwest Chief line running from Chicago, through Kansas, to Los Angeles.

Amtrak May End Passenger Rail Service In West Kansas

Jun 28, 2018
Ben Kuebrich

Amtrak may end passenger rail service through Dodge City, Garden City and destinations to the west.

The agency told a congressional delegation last week that it might shut down parts of the Southwest Chief route that runs across Kansas on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles. That news followed ongoing disputes about track maintenance and upgrades.

Amtrak told Congress that ridership on the line has been falling in recent years and that the service loses about $50 million a year. But U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said that’s not the point.

Jack Snell, flickr Creative Commons

Amtrak is moving ahead on a feasibility study regarding the possible extension of the Heartland Flyer route.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW

The city of Newton, Kansas, sits on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route, which runs from L.A. to Chicago. Now, with city and state leaders pushing for the expansion of a passenger rail route north from Oklahoma, Newton could become a regional hub.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW/File photo

Two Wichita City Council members were in Oklahoma Wednesday to discuss the potential expansion of Amtrak passenger rail service through the Midwest.

Pete Meitzner and James Clendenin visited the Oklahoma State Capitol to testify before the House Transportation Committee. They shared data to support a plan to extend Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer Route from Oklahoma City up to Newton.

Speaking after the meeting, Meitzner said filling the service gap between Oklahoma and Kansas would grow Amtrak ridership on the route, which reaches Fort Worth, Texas.

Nadya Faulx / KMUW/File Photo

An Amtrak train stopped in Wichita today on its way from Oklahoma City to Kansas City.

Adam Moss / Flickr Creative Commons

President Trump's proposed budget includes cuts to the Department of Transportation (DOT), which could mean the loss of Amtrak service for some Kansas cities.

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