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$16M grant will improve SW Chief rail line, including in NM

SANTA FE – The U.S. Transportation Department announced a $16 million grant that will pay for improvements on the route of the Amtrak’s Southwest Chief line, including in New Mexico.

The Chief runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, with stops in New Mexico in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy near Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Gallup.

A new release says the grant will go to Colfax County. But it will pay for replacing 60-year-old bolted rail, and associated turnouts and crossings for a net gain of 42 miles of Class 4 rail, allowing speeds of up to 60 mph for freight and 80 mph for passengers, between Hutchinson, Kan, and Las Animas, Colo.

The project will also replace older rail ties in a 200-mile section between Lamy and Trinidad, Colo., and make a number of improvements to a section of the route of New Mexico Rail Runner commuter train, which also now serves as the Amtrak route.

That work will include replacement of the signaling system, replacement of a damaged culvert, replacement of a half-mile of track along the Devil’s Throne Curve south of Santa Fe and installation of a rock slide fence and warning signal at the Devil’s Throne Curve.

The money comes from DOT’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) discretionary grant program, which “are targeted investments for our local communities that will increase safety, create jobs and modernize our country’s infrastructure,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a news release.