Saving the Southwest Chief will take three states working together and $120 million over the next decade, according to state Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa.
The Chief is the daily Amtrak passenger train running between Chicago and Los Angeles, with stops in La Junta and Trinidad.
Amtrak officials are considering moving the route further south in two years, so the Chief would run through Wichita and Amarillo — cutting out Colorado altogether.
"It seems like we're always trying to save something in the Legislature and now it's the Southwest Chief," Crowder said Wednesday. "But if we don't act, we could lose passenger train service for Southern Colorado and never get it back."
To that end, Crowder is sponsoring legislation in the upcoming General Assembly to create a financing authority to oversee Colorado's portion of the problem. Similar efforts are underway in Kansas and New Mexico to protect the Chief's current route.
Each state would need to dedicate $4 million a year, for 10 years, to upgrading and maintaining the current railroad track used by the Chief. That track is owned by the BNSF Railway.
Crowder's legislation doesn't say where the $4 million would come from. He's open to ideas.
"I'm not talking about new taxes, just redirecting some of our current revenue," he said.
News that Amtrak would move the Chief sent some economic shock waves through communities along its current route. Officials from La Junta, Trinidad and Colfax County, N.M., are hurrying to react to the threatened change.
According to Amtrak officials, the current track across Southern Colorado doesn't allow the Chief to go fast enough.
Copyright 2013 - The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.