CO, NM — US Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) announced Tuesday a $15 million federal grant for new rails and rehabilitation for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief that travels through southeastern Colorado and New Mexico has been approved. The grant comes from a federal yearly economic recovery fund, called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, and is the second year the Chief was awarded its funds. Last year the railroad received $12.5 million. “This gets us past the midway point for funding,” Sal Pace, head of the Southwest Chief Commission and a Pueblo County Commissioner, said Tuesday afternoon. The grant announced this week protects the historic railroad route for the immediate future. The rail route had been in danger of closing as deficits reached $200 million over the past few years. “This line is deeply important to the economies of many communities in southeast Colorado,” Sen. Gardner, who supported the grant, said in a statement October 27. Burlington Northern Santa Fe
Railroad, which owns the line, agreed to pay for 10 years of maintenance, leaving about $50 million still needed from the original $200 million sought. Pace says officials are working to secure those funds. Last week, officials announced about 11,000 tons of steel produced in Pueblo by Evraz North America will help upgrade tracks used by Southwest Chief. The contract is worth more than $8.25 million to the Pueblo firm. “The Southwest Chief isn’t just a railroad route in New Mexico,” U.S. Senator. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), said in a statement. “It serves as an economic engine that connects communities from Gallup to Raton to the rest of the nation.” The Amtrak line, which carries passengers between Chicago and Los Angeles was on the verge of being rerouted out of Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico if the money for upgrades and repairs was not secured. The Southwest Chief has run through southern Colorado since 1971.