By Tom Udall Press Office
U.S. Senator Tom Udall, senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that the committee has advanced his bipartisan amendment to help ensure Amtrak’s Southwest Chief can continue to access federal funding for critical repair work. The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and stops in several New Mexico communities, including Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque, and Gallup.
In March, members of the New Mexico delegation announced that the Department of Transportation (DOT) had awarded New Mexico’s Colfax County a $16 million grant under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to replace segments of the aging rail line on which the Southwest Chief operates. Under a longstanding public-private partnership, Amtrak contributes funds to these TIGER IX grants. However, Amtrak has threatened to withhold and add conditions to its contribution to Colfax County’s TIGER IX grant, endangering critical funds needed for communities to repair the Southwest Chief Route.
Udall, along with Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), successfully included language during the committee’s consideration of the FY2019 Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations bill to strongly encourage Amtrak to consult with stakeholders before adding conditions to any grant funds.
“The Southwest Chief is an engine of economic growth in New Mexico that connects rural communities from Raton to Gallup,” Udall said. “I was pleased when the Southwest Chief received its latest TIGER grant – federal funding that been a big help in making badly-needed improvements to ensure a strong and stable future for the Southwest Chief in New Mexico. But Amtrak is threatening to pull out the rug from the New Mexico communities that are undertaking these critical repairs. That’s why I fought to ensure New Mexico has access to the funding we need and continue to have a say as we work to keep the Southwest Chief chugging long into the future. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I’ll keep fighting for investments in rural infrastructure that benefit the economy and link communities across our state.”
Udall joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter led by U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich raising concerns over Amtrak’s threats to withhold funding for the Southwest Chief Route. Heinrich welcomed today’s committee action: “The Southwest Chief isn’t just a railroad route in New Mexico, it connects communities like Gallup and Las Vegas to the rest of the nation and boosts the local economy. Amtrak’s decision to potentially withhold millions in matching funding for Colfax County causes tremendous uncertainty to the future of the line. I will continue fighting to ensure Amtrak upholds its financial commitment to New Mexico to keep the Southwest Chief on track and continue service of this route,” said Heinrich.