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Amtrak Proposes Expansion Utilizing Union Station
Credit:  Michael McClure

Three of the four proposals for expanding passenger rail service in Kansas would go directly into Union Station in Kansas City from either Fort Worth, Texas, or Oklahoma City.

The four alternatives were outlined in a study released by Amtrak and the Kansas Department of Transportation last Thursday.

Presently, the only passenger service in Kansas is the Southwest Chief which runs between Chicago and Los Angeles and stops at Union Station.

“I am pleased that we have completed this first step," said V. With this study in hand, we can begin to have the kind of meaningful dialog that is necessary for Kansans to make a decision about how to proceed with passenger rail in our state,” said Deb Miller, KDOT secretary.

One alternative would merely extend the Heartland Flyer between Fort Worth and Oklahoma City by connecting Fort Worth and Newton, which is on the BNSF Railway mainline track in central Kansas. That mainline is the route used by the Southwest Chief and Newton would serve as the connection to that route.

Amtrak's study says that alternative, a night train, would have an estimated annual ridership of 92,500. It would require about $114.3 million in track, signal, depot and other improvements to get started; and another $40 million for Amtrak for more locomotives and cars. Kansas would have to subsidize the route at the tune of approximately $3.2 million per year.

Another alternative would also extend the Heartland Flyer but would directly connect Kansas City and Fort Worth. That would also be a night train which would have an estimated 118,200 riders each year. It would require $274 million in infrastructure improvements plus $40 million for locomotives and cars. The annual state subsidy would be about $5.2 million.

The other two alternatives are new day routes, the study indicated.

One would connect Kansas City and Fort Worth. Amtrak estimates 174,000 riders would board the new train each year. It would require $413 million in infrastructure improvements and $63 million for new locomotives and cars, with annual state operating support of $8 million.

The second alternative would connect Kansas City and Oklahoma City. Amtrak estimates the annual ridership at 65,900. It would require $251 million in infrastructure improvements and $56 million for new locomotives and cars. Annual state support of is estimated at $6.4 million.

Miller and other state officials have said there is interest in expanding rail service and she's said that many Kansans have requested rail service in the state's next transportation plan.

“Growth in state-supported corridors is an important part of our future at Amtrak,” said Michael Franke, Amtrak assistant vice president of Policy & Development. We look forward to working with leaders of Kansas to provide Amtrak service as a mobility choice that is dependable, convenient, safe, economical and environmentally friendly.”

One of the next steps is for KDOT to do what Amtrak calls a Service Development Plan. The Obama Administration recently offered a $250,000 high-speed rail grant to the state to pay for half of the costs of the plan.

KDOT's Web site www.kdot.org offers details and supporting documents for the study.

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