May 03--JEFFERSON CITY -- At a time when budget cuts dominate many funding discussions among state lawmakers, Amtrak passenger service again sidestepped the executioner's ax.
An Amtrak supporter while serving in the House, David Pearce has continued to back Amtrak as a senator. He voted with the Senate majority to back an ongoing, $37.4 million plan -- using federal funds -- to speed passenger and freight service between Kansas City and St. Louis, including in Johnson County. Union Pacific owns the line used by Amtrak
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on line work in this area, Pearce said. Some of the work involves creating a passing and siding extension to allow one train to pull over while another passes. The effort should assist Amtrak's improving on-time performance record.
Rail work is planned at Knob Noster at a cost of $835,000; $958,000, siding, Kingsville; and $850,000 for line work at Strasburg, on Highway 58, just west of Kingsville.
Having more than $2.6 million spent in this area is an economic benefit, Pearce said.
"Oh, it's awesome," he said.
More work will occur west of Strasburg.
"A double-track from Lee's Summit to Pleasant Hill, which really helps an Amtrak, is $1.4 million," he said.
Getting the money did not come easily. Pearce and other senators defeated an effort led by Sen. Jim Lembke, in south St. Louis County. His effort would have stopped the state from using federal money to make improvements to the Union Pacific line.
Lembke and some other senators do not want to accept money borrowed by the debt-ridden national government. Other lawmakers have said if Missouri does not accept the money, another state will.
"We had to fight and we spent probably about an hour on this one item," Pearce said, "so we fought to keep it in and we kept it in -- big, big news for Johnson County. We've lived to see another day."
Amtrak turned 40 as "America's Railroad" Sunday. The company plans to end a weeklong celebration with National Train Day on Saturday.
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