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.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 HeinrichOvernight Defense: Dems aim to block use of defense funds for wall | Watchdog issues new warning on Syria withdrawal | Trump wants to 'watch Iran' from Iraq Senate Dems introduce bill to block Trump from using military funds to build wall Puerto Rico statehood supporters pin hopes on House action MORE (D-N.M.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic donors stuck in shopping phase of primary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by America's 340B Hospitals — CDC blames e-cigs for rise in youth tobacco use | FDA cracks down on dietary supplements | More drug pricing hearings on tap The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - Next 24 hours critical for stalled funding talks MORE (D-Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-N.M.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranSenators optimistic about reaching funding deal GOP senators read Pence riot act before shutdown votes On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (R-Kan.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators offer praise for Klobuchar: 'She’s the whole package' The Hill's Morning Report - House Dems prepare to swamp Trump with investigations The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? MORE (R-Kan.), and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough 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 PolisKey Colorado House committee passes bill to decide presidential elections by popular vote, not Electoral college Gardner gets latest Democratic challenge from former state senator Gardner, Portman endorse Trump for 2020 MORE (D-Colo.), Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamDems ready aggressive response to Trump emergency order, as GOP splinters New Mexico House speaker rejects impeachment push against governor over border troop decision California governor to pull back troops from border: report MORE (D-N.M), Steve PearceStevan (Steve) Edward PearceThe legal scandal that no one is talking about Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough Election Countdown: Recount prospects grow in Florida | Abrams team to sue over absentee ballots | Dem wins pivotal Georgia House seat | A look at the uncalled races | Corporations spend big to beat ballot measures MORE (R-N.M.) and Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsPompeo seen as top recruit for Kansas Senate seat Exiting lawmakers jockey for K Street perch GOP seeks to ram through Trump’s B wall demand 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.”