Series: Railroad West

Amtrak's Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, passing through towns in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.

In spring 2014, the future of the route was largely in question due to expensive upgrades and repairs needed in order to maintain passenger rail speeds.

Railroad West is KRCC's ongoing coverage of the issue, which began when news interns Martha Perez-Sanz and Maggie Spencer looked into the Southwest Chief as part of their journalism curriculum at Colorado College. 

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

An informational meeting on the possibility of bringing passenger rail back to Pueblo is taking place tomorrow.
Southwest Chief efforts have received two federal grants in as many years totaling more than $48 million, about half of the funds needed to repair the current route.
Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace also heads the state's Southwest Chief Commission, which is tasked with coordinating efforts to preserve the line and ultimately bring it back to the steel city. "We feel right now that the existential threat has passed us mostly," says Pace, "and we can now start focusing on the final piece, which is connecting Pueblo to the Southwest Chief route." Pace says the community meeting will help citizens get involved with bringing the Chief to Pueblo, and layout what they still need to do to repair the line. That includes seeking state and federal funding, and applying for a third federal grant in April. The meeting is set to take place Thursday, March 3 rd at the Pueblo City-County Health Department at 5: 30 PM .

Steve Wilson / Flickr - Creative Commons

Efforts to fund much-needed repairs to Amtrak's Southwest Chief line got an extra boost Monday as the U. S. Department of Transportation awarded $15.2 million to the project. Combined with matching funds, the grant, known as a TIGER grant, totals $24.5 million.
"This is really a huge win," said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who also heads the state's Southwest Chief commission. "And [it] shows that if you put aside your differences, you forget about party, if you forget about...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Efforts to fund much-needed repairs to Amtrak's Southwest Chief line got an extra boost today as the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded 15.2 million dollars to the project.

Combined with matching funds, the grant, known as a TIGER grant, totals 24.5 million. Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace heads the state's Southwest Chief commission: "Between TIGER VI and TIGER VII, we will have accomplished half of the immediate repairs," said Sal Pace, Pueblo County Commissioner and...

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

Work is set to begin this week on rail lines in western Kansas that carry Amtrak's Southwest Chief. Portions of that track, plus segments in southeastern Colorado, were the target of a federal transportation grant awarded last year to help repair and upgrade freight lines to passenger rail speeds. And, Colorado's Steel City is getting a boost from the work.
In a parking lot near Pueblo's Steelworks Museum, County Commissioner Sal Pace announced the EVRAZ mill will supply 11,000 tons of...

Steve Wilson / Flickr - Creative Commons

The Colorado Department of Transportation Commission voted unanimously to approve $1 million to help preserve the Southwest Chief rail line in southern Colorado. It's part of a route that stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles. The aging track needs major upgrades or Amtrak will have to reroute the line out of Colorado and parts of New Mexico and Kansas. The train stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad, in southeastern Colorado. Republican state Senator Larry Crowder of Alamosa tried to get...

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.
The Amtrak long-distance passenger train runs from Chicago to Los Angeles through southern Colorado. While a looming deadline for...

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....

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.

Amtrak’s...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Members of Colorado’s Southwest Chief Commission heard opening remarks at their meeting Thursday from the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration.
The commission is tasked with finding ways to finance repairs and upgrades to rail lines and add a stop in Pueblo for the long-distance passenger train. Federal Railroad Administration head Joseph Szabo says freight traffic and passenger rail numbers are growing, and it’s an important piece of the...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Efforts to preserve Amtrak’s Southwest Chief long-distance passenger train service that runs through southern Colorado got a financial boost. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin reports on a grant from the federal Department of Transportation that will help fix some of the regional track that’s in most need of repair. The $12.5 million grant will go toward repairing the worst of the worst in a section of track in Kansas and Colorado. As part of the application, Amtrak said the company would continue...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Colorado’s commission to look at preserving Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line is gearing up to start its meetings. The commission’s been tasked with coordinating efforts to try and save the line, which faces possible rerouting out of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico if necessary infrastructure upgrades aren’t completed.

Jim Souby is the President of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, and was appointed to the commission to represent the tourism industry. "I can’t...

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC


Amtrak’s Southwest Chief is a long-distance passenger train that travels daily from Chicago to Los Angeles along the Mountain Route of the historic Santa Fe Trail. Along the way, it knits together rural communities, like La Junta, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico and connects them to larger cities, like Albuquerque and Kansas City. The route is at risk though. Without needed repairs and upgrades, the Southwest Chief could be diverted , bypassing southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC

Recipients of an annual federal transportation grant are expected to be announced this fall. As KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports, officials in Southern Colorado are hoping the grant will help keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line on its current route. The grant is known as the TIGER grant, and is part of a federal funding program that helps finance large transportation projects nationwide. Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace helped raise matching funds from groups in Colorado for an application...

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. Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman says he wants to keep the Southwest...

Shanna Lewis / KRCC


Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill in Pueblo today to create a commission aimed at keeping Amtrak’s Southwest Chief rolling through southern Colorado. KRCC's Shanna Lewis reports from Pueblo.

The train follows the historic Santa Fe Trail through Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico as it travels between Chicago and Los Angeles. But it could be rerouted unless some $200 million in repairs are made to the tracks.

Rail travel supporters gathered behind Pueblo’s...

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. Trains hauling coal, grain and other freight rumble past Pueblo’s historic Union...

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.

The funds are matching dollars in an application for a $15 million federal grant from the U. S. Department of Transportation, known as a TIGER grant . Garden City, Kansas is the lead applicant, but communities including Lamar, La Junta , and...

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.
Trinidad native and...

Railroad West: La Junta as 'The Junction'

Apr 17, 2014
Martha Perez-Sanz / KRCC


La Junta, Colorado is about the 30 th 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...

Maggie Spencer / KRCC


Amtrak’s Southwest Chief runs daily from Chicago to Los Angeles, stretching across portions of Western Kansas, Southern Colorado, and Northern New Mexico. It runs on tracks owned by BNSF, which are in need of upgrades and repairs. A partnership is on the table between those five entities, with an estimated cost of $40 million each spread over the course of 10 years. If an agreement can’t be made, Amtrak says it will reroute the service, bypassing western Kansas, Colorado, and Northern...

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. “The train will continue to slow...

Railroad West: Southwest Chief Faces Possible Colorado Derailment

Mar 13, 2014
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...

Railroad West: Amtrak along the Santa Fe Trail

Mar 12, 2014
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...