WICHITA, Kansas – Big news for western Kansas, as a $12.5 million dollar grant will keep Amtrak’s Southwest Chief running for another two decades. But as one section of track in Kansas and Colorado gets new life, a proposal to return passenger rail service to Wichita seems to be hitting the brakes. The federal government announces winning grants to state legislators and the Department of Transportation. Therefore, a grant to study the possibility of expanding a route through Wichita seems like a long shot.
Council member Pete Meitzner has been pushing to connect Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer from Wichita to Oklahoma City.
The fact that the state has been notified of winning the grant for the Southwest Chief means a request from Wichita and other agencies likely will not be granted. The city was looking for $2 million complete an environmental study, the last step in getting approval to begin the project.
“We have not been old yes or no but the fact that the Southwest Chief has been advised and I think they are advised through Colorado says they’ve been awarded and you never know if the phone doesn’t ring, we’ll see,” Meitzner said.
An Amtrak spokesperson says if this grant wasn’t approved the company was exploring re-routing the Southwest Chief bringing it through Wichita to Oklahoma, an unlikely scenario with the federal money for the Chief now guaranteed
The Heartland Flyer, running from Texas to Oklahoma could one day reach Wichita, but not anytime soon.
Last July, the city and county approved studies to see if bringing service back to Wichita would be possible. City leaders would not say if they will apply for another grant. An official decision from the federal government could come down any day now.