RATON — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded New Mexico’s Colfax County a $16 million grant to replace segments of aging rail line on which Amtrak’s Southwest Chief operates. The grant, which was awarded under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, will fund critical repair work in New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. Initial estimates indicated that over $100 million was needed to upgrade the portions of the line operating in New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado to meet passenger train standers. Two former TIGER grants enabled large sections of the Southwest Chief’s rail line to be repaired. This final TIGER grant will provide the funding needed to repair and rehabilitate this last rail line section, based primarily in New Mexico, with the same updates installed on the rest of the line.
The project will build on previous awards made under TIGER 6 and TIGER 7 by replacing 60-year old bolted rail, associated turnouts and crossings for a net gain of 42 miles of Class 4 rail in the La Junta subdivision between Hutchinson, KS., and Las Animas, CO. The project will also replace older rail ties in a 200-mile section of rail between Lamy, NM, and Trinidad, CO. Finally, the project will construct a series of improvements to the NMRX commuter rail route in New Mexico including the replacement of the signaling system, replacement of a damaged culvert, replacement of a half-mile of track along the Devil’s Throne curve, and installation of a rock slide fence and warning signal at the Devil’s Throne Curve.
The Southwest Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, and stops in several New Mexico communities, including Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque, and Gallup. The members of the New Mexico delegation, along with lawmakers from Colorado and Kansas, wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of this TIGER grant application in October 2017.