SANTA FE – The U.S. Senate passed a transportation, housing and urban development appropriations bill on Wednesday that included an amendment that would provide an additional $50 million to help maintain Amtrak’s passenger train service through New Mexico.
New Mexico U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, a Democrat, sponsored the bill along with Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican. It was co-sponsored by four other senators, including New Mexico’s Martin Heinrich.
The amendment follows a related amendment overwhelmingly approved by the Senate last week that didn’t include a funding appropriation but emphasized the importance of keeping the Chicago to Los Angeles Southwest Chief passenger train running.
The Senate moves come in the wake of a recent Amtrak proposal to replace rail service with chartered bus service along the portion of the route between Albuquerque and Dodge City, Kan.
“The Southwest Chief route is an economic engine in New Mexico, giving passengers a ride through time – through the historic West – and connecting our communities,” Udall said in a statement.
“The additional funding from our amendment will make sure the Southwest Chief gets back on a sound financial track. I remain committed to working with our communities, Amtrak leadership, and other stakeholders to keep the Chief running long into the future.”
Heinrich noted that Amtrak brings thousands of Boy Scouts to the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron in northern New Mexico, generating economic activity in cities like Raton, Las Vegas and Lamy, which serves as the Santa Fe stop along the route.
“It makes no sense for Amtrak to provide inferior service while cutting out a key part of rural America. We’re going to continue fighting any effort to undermine this important route,” Heinrich said.
An Amtrak spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.