Republican senators urge better Amtrak services in rural areas of their states

U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) are among a bipartisan contingent of federal lawmakers who recently appealed to Amtrak for continued and improved long-distance services through America’s rural regions, particularly in their home states.

The senators also requested details about changes Amtrak made last year to long-distance routes, including the removal of ticket agents at stations across the country and whether the company will restore other cancelled passenger services.

“We seek your firm commitment that Amtrak will abide by its statutory purpose — maintaining a truly national network for our rail system,” wrote Sens. Moran, Roberts and Gardner along with eight other lawmakers, including U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), in an April 5 letter sent to Amtrak President Richard Anderson.

The senators are particularly interested in Amtrak maintaining train services along the established, long-distance passenger rail route of the Southwest Chief, #3665, which runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles. The Southwest Chief service connects numerous towns and cities, particularly in rural communities, across Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

“These routes serve small, midsize and rural communities in our states and provide essential connections to jobs, tourism and family that are critical to the people and places we represent,” according to the senators. 

Last summer, the senators successfully had Senate Amendment (S.Amdt.) 3665 inserted into the U.S. Senate’s fiscal year 2019 appropriations bill to fund the U.S. Department of the Interior and related agencies. S.Amdt. 3665 requires Amtrak to maintain train services along the route of the Southwest Chief.

“Amtrak’s recent appropriation clearly demonstrates Congress’ strong, bipartisan support for the network,” according to this month’s letter. “In making this investment, Congress chose to ensure the continued viability of Amtrak’s entire system, including the National Network’s long-distance and state-supported routes. These funds should be used to operate the entire existing system and, where possible, expand the system to grow both revenue and ridership.”