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Transportation

Newton Poised To Be Regional Hub If Passenger Rail Expands North

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Nadya Faulx
/
KMUW
Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner, left, listens as Newton Mayor Barth Hague speaks Wednesday at the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Conference in Wichita.

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.

Speaking at a Midwestern passenger rail conference, Newton Mayor Barth Hague said his city has already benefitted from its position on one of the country’s main east-west passenger rail lines.

“What’s critical to understand is that for all of the communities that are served right now by the Southwest chief, we gain a lot when that connection gets made."

If Amtrak extends the Heartland Flyer route north, Newton would be a connection to Oklahoma and Texas, too.

“All of a sudden you add to that mix the ability to go to Dallas, San Antonio, you name it, that’s really ramped up the game," Hague said.

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Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Pete Meitzner says possible rail expansion would be good for not just Newton, but for the entire region.

The expansion would also bring passenger rail service back to Wichita for the first time since 1979.

"To think that Newton, Kansas, might be the epicenter of connecting lines that are east and west with north and south," said Wichita City Councilman Pete Meitzner, "it's a big deal for Newton, but I'll tell you what, it's a big deal for the whole region."

Meitzner said the annual investment Oklahoma and Texas have to make on the rail line is about $5.5 million, but with Kansas as a potential partner, the costs would be shared.

"We become a critical part and that’s why Texas and Oklahoma are very interested in getting this connected to the national route," he said. "We'd use the same train stock. We'd have incremental costs with personnel and operating costs, but we'd have great expansion of revenue."

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Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx.

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