Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s Southwest Chief commission met Friday, just days after $1.5 million in funding amendments were stripped from the House’s state budget proposal and another funding bill was put on indefinite hold. 

The commission is tasked with finding money for the route, including needed repairs to the tracks and for possibly adding a stop in Pueblo. 

Steve Wilson / Flickr – Creative Commons


UPDATE 04/14/15: The Joint Budget Committee, charged with negotiating the differences between the House and Senate budget proposals, stripped this funding amendment from the budget. The eventual budget plan will still need approval from both chambers.

ORIGINAL POST 04/09/15: Lawmakers in the House initially passed the state's annual budget yesterday. After hours of debate, the chamber decided to set aside money to help preserve a passenger train that runs through southeastern Colorado. Bente Birkeland has more from the state capitol.

A bill in Colorado’s Senate that seeks funding to help preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief route passed out of committee today on a 5-2 vote. 

This comes on the heels of a report from the state’s Southwest Chief Commission that says the original expected $40 million share to help save the long distance route has been knocked down to 8.91 million, due in part to a federal transportation grant and negotiations with BNSF Railway, the company that owns the tracks. 

Dana Cronin / KRCC

The President and CEO of Amtrak rode the Southwest Chief line in a separate train through Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico on a Whistle-stop tour to talk about the future of the route.  KRCC’s Dana Cronin was in La Junta and has this report.

The Southwest Chief runs between Los Angeles and Chicago. The future of the route is in question, as the current rail lines require upgrades in order to maintain passenger rail speeds.

Shanna Lewis / KRCC

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief rolls through parts of Colorado, New Mexico and Kansas following the historic Santa Fe Trail as it travels between Los Angeles and Chicago. But unless needed repairs are made to the tracks, this section could be rerouted to neighboring states. Yet, the threat of losing this train may be the catalyst that ends up bringing passenger rail service back to Pueblo after a long hiatus.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

A new collaborative effort that crosses state lines has pledged more than $9 million as part of a grant application that would help keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on its current route through Southern Colorado.  KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Trinidad is the last stop on Amtrak’s Los Angeles-bound Southwest Chief before the train makes its way through Raton Pass and into New Mexico. The route is at risk though, and could be eliminated from Colorado and Northern New Mexico entirely.   As KRCC’s Maggie Spencer reports, many in the southern Colorado region see the passenger train and freight lines as inextricably linked, tying together the town’s history with the opportunities for future economic development.

Martha Perez-Sanz / KRCC

La Junta, Colorado is about the 30th stop en route to Los Angeles from Chicago on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. As the Southwest Chief’s rails are aging and expensive repairs are needed, La Junta is at risk of being removed from the train’s historic route.

Downtown La Junta is sprinkled with cafes and small artisan shops. There’s the Otero Museum, which documents the history of the region, and the Koshare Indian Museum, which hosts native dance programs. Bent’s Old Fort is just eight miles from downtown.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s Amtrak rail line in southeastern Colorado is in need of major repairs. Upgrades to the track are expected to be in the millions, and a measure is moving through the statehouse to try and find ways to finance the project and save the rail line.  It’s part of a multi-state effort.

The Southwest Chief line runs through the towns of Lamar, La Junta, and Trinidad. It’s part of a longer passenger route stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Steve Wilson / Flickr – Creative Commons

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a long distance passenger train that travels daily from Chicago to Los Angeles.  Some riders travel the full route, others use it as their primary transportation between shorter distances.  The train follows the historic Santa Fe Trail, one of the oldest commerce routes in the American West.  Along the way, it passes through Southern Colorado—Lamar, LaJunta, and Trinidad—and then into Raton in Northern New Mexico.  But the rails are aging, and the Southwest Chief could be diverted, bypassing Colorado and Northern New Mexico entirely.

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through towns in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.  The future of the route is in question, as the current rail lines require upgrades in order to maintain passenger rail speeds.  A partnership is on the table to share expenses for the upgrades; as proposed, Colorado’s portion would be about $40 million over the course of ten years. A bill making its way through Colorado’s legislature would set up a commission to study the issue, as well as the possibility of adding a depot in Pueblo.

Summary of the Southwest Chief Impact Study, Kevin Duncan & Michael Wakefield / CSU-Pueblo

Revised, 04/24/14:  New out-of-state visitor numbers supplied to study co-author Kevin Duncan after this report aired lowers the estimated annual impact to around $3.4 million annually.  Duncan writes that it's "about $34 million over ten years. The additional cost of providing service to Pueblo is estimated to be between $26 and $30 million."

Original report: