Lawmakers request meeting with Amtrak CEO over funding for route

Lawmakers request meeting with Amtrak CEO over funding for route
© Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday asked for a meeting with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson over the company’s plans to deny funding for its Southwest Chief route pending additional financial investments.

The letter, penned by multiple House and Senate lawmakers in both parties, argues the route that runs through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico is “vital to the economic well-being of our communities.”

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“The lack of transparency by Amtrak management about its changing position on the Southwest Chief is troubling, particularly for a Government-Sponsored Enterprise entrusted with an important public transportation mission,” the letter reads. 

“We request Amtrak take the lead in developing cooperative plans to ensure the Southwest Chief’s successful operation, including seeking funding from the various federal grant programs established to address these specific issues.”

Sens. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichCNN congressional correspondent talks about her early love of trolls and family Overnight Energy: DNC to reject fossil fuel donations | Regulators see no security risk in coal plant closures | Senate committee rejects Trump EPA, Interior budgets Energy commission sees no national security risk from coal plant closures MORE (D-N.M.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetHarley stunner spikes tension with Trump over trade policy Races to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Democrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor MORE (D-Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallEPA deputy says he's not interested in Pruitt’s job Latina Leaders to Watch 2018 Overnight Energy: Spending bill targets Pruitt | Ryan not paying 'close attention' to Pruitt controversies | Yellowstone park chief learned of dismissal through press release MORE (D-N.M.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranHillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices GOP senators visited Moscow on July 4, warned Russia against meddling in 2018 election: report MORE (R-Kan.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Senate passes mammoth farm bill Moderates need to hold firm against radical right on Farm Bill MORE (R-Kan.), and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenators urge DOJ to probe whether Russians posed as Islamic extremist hackers to harass US military families GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh Overnight Defense: VA pick breezes through confirmation hearing | House votes to move on defense bill negotiations | Senate bill would set 'stringent' oversight on North Korea talks MORE (R-Colo.) signed the document, as did a group of House lawmakers from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas.

Amtrak has put conditions on its decision to contribute funds to a project on the route. The letter comes in response to a message the company sent to Congress responding to questions about plans for the route.

The rail company in its remarks to lawmakers referenced a letter from last year to the Colfax County Commission in New Mexico, in which Amtrak said it would withhold the matching funds for the project aimed at rehabilitating the Southwest Chief route until other stakeholders invest in the infrastructure.

“Amtrak will offer a $3 million match towards the project costs if the grant application for the requested amount is successful,” Amtrak CFO William Feidt wrote in the October letter that was submitted with the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant application.

“Before Amtrak will fulfill this contribution, a comprehensive financial plan and accompanying commitments by relevant states and BNSF for the remainder of the infrastructure investments and associated additional maintenances costs for this route in New Mexico must be completed,” Feidt added, referring to the BNSF Railway.

Democratic lawmakers from New Mexico announced in March that Colfax County had received a $16 million TIGER grant for the project, aimed at rehabilitating the Southwest Chief line, which operates from Chicago, Ill., to Los Angeles, Calif.

But Amtrak is insisting the other parties pitch in financially and develop a strategy for “long-term financial commitments” to rebuild the route operating from Hutchinson, Kan., and Albuquerque, N.M. 

“A piecemeal approach to solving this problem that leads to higher operating costs and new capital obligations for Amtrak’s long distance routes isn’t sustainable, especially as we face vast needs for fleet, station and infrastructure improvements across the National Network,” Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari said in a statement to The Hill.

“We stand prepared to consider any such plan as we consider alternatives for this portion of the route.”

Reps. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisElection Countdown: Calls to abolish ICE test Dem candidates | First round of House GOP 'Young Guns' | How Tester is handling Trump's Montana visit | Dem candidate won't back Schumer as leader | Super PACs ramp up Missouri ad buys Dem lawmakers request briefing on reuniting immigrant families Crowley surprise tops huge night for left MORE (D-Colo.), Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDems call for family reunification plan from Trump administration House panel rejects amendment barring family separations Live coverage: High drama as hardline immigration bill fails, compromise vote delayed MORE (D-N.M), Steve PearceStevan (Steve) Edward PearceLatina Leaders to Watch 2018 Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral Six takeaways from 2018's Super Tuesday MORE (R-N.M.) and Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsKansas GOP candidate says there is 'only barbarism' outside of Western civilization Lawmakers request meeting with Amtrak CEO over funding for route Lawmakers seek answers from IRS following Tax Day systems glitch MORE (R-Kan.) also signed the Thursday letter, in which lawmakers say it’s “essential” that the funding be utilized to sustain “the Southwest Chief on its current route.”