GARDEN CITY, Kansas – After a lot of anticipation, improvements are being made starting this week on the BNSF railway in Western Kansas.
“I know there’s a lot of students and parents who use the rail to go to the eastern part of the state,” said Janet Doll, the Garden City mayor.
And that rail will be more efficient very soon.
Those upgrades come from a nearly $12.5 million federal grant awarded to Garden City.
The city also received a little over $9 million in state, local and private funds.
“The BNSF main line has needed some upgrades to be able to maintain the speeds that Amtrak likes to operate at,” said Steve Cottrell, the Garden City city engineer.
Although the railway’s condition is good enough to carry freight as it is, Amtrak leaders say worsening track conditions were causing Amtrak to re-think their route unless repairs are made.
“Coal and grain doesn’t care as much about when it gets to where it’s going. People do,” said Marc Magliari, Amtrak Media Manager. “This will make the train more reliable, this will make it a better business proposition for people to use the service and for us to operate it.”
For Garden City especially, these improvements come at the perfect time.
After being chosen as a site for a new transload facility, city leaders say this is a step in the right direction for freight trains too.
“It’s a great benefit for people who have companies that want to ship things worldwide,” said Doll. “They can truck it to this transload facility, put it on the rail, send it to the west coast and it can be shipped anywhere.”
This first phase of the project will cover part of the Southwest Chief route from Holcomb to West of Deerfield.
Leaders say it’s a group effort and the benefits will reach far beyond Southwest Kansas.
“It’s positive for the city of Garden City as well as all the cities from Newton to well, actually just outside of Albuquerque,” Cottrell said.
City leaders say this first phase of the project is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving of this year.
They say this grant wouldn’t have been possible without support from federal and state legislators.