Gardner, Bennet, Colleagues Secure $3 Million Grant Match for Southwest Chief

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) today announced that Amtrak at long last will provide $3 million in matching funds to complete the federal TIGER IX grant awarded in the beginning of 2018 for safety upgrades and maintenance on the train’s route in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. 

“Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line is critical to the economic development of our rural communities throughout Southeastern Colorado, and this funding is great news for our state,” said Senator Gardner. “For years, I have worked with my colleagues and our state and local partners to support the Southwest Chief, and this funding is an important step forward and fulfills Amtrak’s previous commitment. Going forward, I’ll continue my efforts to support Colorado’s transportation priorities at the federal level.”

“We joined a coalition of community leaders years ago and pledged to find the funding to keep the Southwest Chief line running,” said Senator Bennet. “Today’s TIGER Grant rewards the dedication of leaders across Southern Colorado and again validates the importance of the Southwest Chief. I'll continue to work with my colleagues from Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas to support long-distance train service and other infrastructure projects that benefit rural communities."

Earlier this month, Congress passed and the president signed the FY2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related (THUD) Appropriations Act, which set aside $50 million of Amtrak’s appropriations for long-term maintenance and safety improvements on lines like the Southwest Chief.

Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by Kansas, New Mexico, and Colorado. This grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in the Southwest Chief. The legislation also prohibits Amtrak from replacing long-distance train service with buses. 

The Southwest Chief runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles and connects towns and cities in Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, and provides passenger train and long-distance passenger service, particularly through rural communities. 

Timeline of the senators’ work:  

  • This month, Congress passed and the president signed the FY2019 THUD Appropriations Act, which provides $50 million of Amtrak’s appropriations for long-term maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief.
  • On August 1, 2018, the Senate approved the senators’ amendment to maintain Southwest Chief train services.
  • On July 31, 2018, the senators introduced an amendment advocating for Southwest Chief.
  • On July 26, 2018, the senators sent a letter to Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson urging him to uphold Amtrak’s side of a longstanding public-private partnership to continue operating the Southwest Chief passenger train and long-distance passenger service.
  • On July 25, 2018, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a Sense of the Congress measure to affirm support for the long-distance rail service.
  • In June 2018, the senators met with Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson to discuss solutions for the Southwest Chief and to encourage more transparency in Amtrak’s decision-making.
  • On May 31, 2018, the senators sent a bipartisan, multi-state letter condemning Amtrak’s decision not to match TIGER Grant funds.