Future of passenger rail service in Kansas in doubt

NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) – The future of passenger rail in Kansas is in doubt.

President Donald Trump is proposing to slash the Department of Transportation’s funding by $2.4 billion.

The closest Amtrak station is just north of Wichita in Newton.

Lifelong Newton resident Emily Anderson says she just got back from a trip to Chicago last Friday, riding Amtrak out of the station in Newton.

“I find it to be a great, inexpensive way to travel, my sister and I probably wouldn’t have gone to Chicago had we not had a cheaper option,” said Anderson.

Newton Mayor Barth Hague says his town serves as the biggest passenger rail service for Amtrak in the state.

“Just in terms of passenger volume we have about 14,000 passengers who come through here each year,” said Hague.

Hague the economic impact is probably about $3 million dollars or so that Amtrak generates from the state of Kansas.

However, that is in jeopardy.

President Trump’s proposal would cut the Department of Transportation budget by 13 percent.

“If that budget proposal was adopted, it would essentially end service to the state of Kansas on Amtrak,” said Hague.

Hague says he kept a watchful eye on the proposal.

He says it could negatively impact his town and many other communities in Kansas.

Hague says many communities in Kansas fought for $28 million dollars in grant money over the past few years to make rail improvements along the Southwest Chief.

“Hutchinson, Garden City, Dodge City and even into eastern Colorado, La Junta, Trinidad, you know we worked with them on TIGER grants to improve the line and we fought together with those communities,” said Hague.

For those who use the train, like Anderson, she says it would be a big blow to the community if it eventually had to shut down.

“I think it would do a disservice, I think we’d lose a lot of culture that comes with having the train station here,” said Anderson.

Hague says he’s holding out hope that Congress will ultimately make, what he calls, the right decision and not let passenger rail service be lost for good.

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