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 HeinrichElection Countdown: What to watch in final primaries | Dems launch M ad buy for Senate races | Senate seats most likely to flip | Trump slump worries GOP | Koch network's new super PAC Rand Paul endorses Gary Johnson's Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s legal jeopardy mounts after Manafort, Cohen felony counts MORE (D-N.M.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem MORE (D-Colo.), Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh Trump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Senate Dems want DOJ review of Giuliani's work for foreign entities MORE (D-N.M.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranGoogle says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data McConnell: Sessions should stay as attorney general Tougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans MORE (R-Kan.), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsPat Robertson asks followers to help cast 'shield of protection' ahead of hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke The farm bill gives Congress a chance to act on the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act MORE (R-Kan.), and Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSome employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Colorado governor sets up federal PAC before potential 2020 campaign Hillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law 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 PolisInterior moves ahead with opening wildlife refuge next to contaminated nuclear site Environmental group pledges M to help green candidates Overnight Health Care: South Dakota proposes Medicaid work requirements | Senate Republicans sign off on opioids package | GOP targets Manchin over Planned Parenthood MORE (D-Colo.), Michelle Lujan GrishamMichelle Lynn Lujan GrishamReexamining presidential power over national monuments State Department: Allegations of racism 'disgusting and false' Women candidates set nationwide records MORE (D-N.M), Steve PearceStevan (Steve) Edward PearceCook moves status of 6 House races as general election sprint begins Congress, require BLM to respect the rights of private landowners Dems see chance to cut into GOP governorships MORE (R-N.M.) and Lynn JenkinsLynn Haag JenkinsSentencing reform is critical for youth in the justice system Election Countdown: GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket | Dems make history in Tuesday's primaries | Parties fight for Puerto Rican vote in Florida | GOP lawmakers plan 'Freedom Tour' GOP worries House majority endangered by top of ticket 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.”