ColoRail, the Colorado Rail Passenger Association, has requested the readers of Colorado Railroads help support a last minute effort to help preserve funding in Colorado's annual budget for rehabilitating the Southwest Chief. As many of you already know, Amtrak had been forced to look at re-routing the train mid route after BNSF reduced maintenance on its present route.
Now, with ColoRail, local communities, concerned citizens, more than one politician, and a TIGER on board, Amtrak says it will not re-route the train. Most importantly, this allows projects that had been put on hold in communities all along the line when they announced the possible re-route. This includes projects like La Junta's multimodal transportation hub. However, if Colorado is not able to come to the table with it's share, we may end up right back where we started.
So what's happened? Last night, Colorado's House of Representatives included the $1.5M needed in their budget for the year. Last week, the state Senate, by a vote of 17-18, failed to pass the request. What happens when the two bills don't match up? The 6 members of Joint Budget Committee meet in the next week to reconcile the differences between bills. If they go with the house version, Colorado makes it to the table with BNSF, Amtrak, Kansas and twelve SE Colorado communities that have all ponied up the funds to get back on track. If not, it puts a cloud of doubt over the whole process.
Jim Souby, President of ColoRail says they've already seen the impressive work of members and friends of the group. "Legislators have commented about how impressed they are by the number of calls and emails they have received." But now? "It's crunch time!"
Three key legislators on the Joint Budget Committee control the fate of the Southwest Chief. It's important for us to use today and the weekend to push as best we can for the Southwest Chief. "Can you help us with calls and emails today? I wouldn't be asking if this wasn't important," Souby explains.
Please take a moment today and contact the following legislators via email and phone. Leave a message if necessary. The key legislators are:
- Senator Kevin Grantham, District 2, 303-866-4877
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- Representative Millie Hamner, Dillon, 303-866-2952
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- Representative Dave Young, Greeley, 303-866-2929
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Represent with courtesy and respect. Personalize your message, but make sure to say that you want their support for funding the Southwest Chief in the state budget.
Here are a few other points that you can make to the legislators
- Explain how we need to support rural Colorado.
- You support saving the Southwest Chief. Why do you support the Chief?
- We're asking for $1.5 Million total in the budget this year. $1 Million as a local match to join Kansas, BNSF Railway, & Amtrak towards another Federal grant. The other half million will go towards studying the feasibility of connecting Pueblo and Walsenburg to the route
- Local communities - in fact 12 - in Southeastern Colorado have already stepped up and paid a share. And, we were successful once receiving a Federal matching grant. ColoRail put in $1,000. If our small communities and advocates can step up, why can't Colorado?
- Amtrak, the BNSF Railway, and Kansas have already spent millions on this project. Kansas put in $3 Million last year and plans on doing it again. Now it's Colorado's turn to show our support. We'll leverage all of our state and local dollars towards another Federal transportation grant and multiply our investment.
Thank you for your help saving passenger rail in Colorado!◊