Pieces of nationwide train access jeopardized for thousands in Kansas
By Joe Cadotte. CREATED Jul 11, 2014
About 15,000 annual Kansas riders, who rely on Amtrak in Newton for nationwide train access, could be losing connectivity to Colorado and New Mexico.
Trains have been taking passengers from Newton to Albuquerque, New Mexico since the 1800s, but that route is threatened as deteriorating tracks, and lack of funds, are causing potential delays in the daily Amtrak service.
Amtrack President Joe Boardman got off of a Southwest Chief Friday morning at the Newton train depot, and encouraged residents and officials to get involved in the effort to maintain the tracks.
"Newton is the most popular stop in Kansas today," Boardman said. "The whole interior part of our nation is served by Amtrak. Amtrak is a system that was created in 1971 to do exactly what it's doing, and that's to connect the nation together. ...Get involved, be engaged. Understand that your community depends on people understanding being educated, and understanding that these are important services."
Newton City Manager Randy Riggs said Amtrak is an important part of south-central Kansas.
"This is a rail town, through and through," Riggs said. "We like the idea of having that part of the economy here. It's also about choice, think about demographics of passengers and people that need to move from place to place in the coming decades. People want choices and can't always drive (or fly)."
Boardman's visit is part of a "whistle-stop" tour of Kansas depots to raise awareness about the deteriorating tracks, and a nationwide media campaign to raise funds to maintain the Southwestern route.
Photo by Joe Cadotte
Amtrak President Joe Boardman, left, Newton Vice Mayor Glen Davis, right