Campaign urged to save Amtrak route |

Campaign urged to save Amtrak route

In a legislative update to its members, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association reports that “good sources” say Amtrak’s California Zephyr route is successful and not at risk to be cut.

The sources were not revealed in the update.

Despite the optimistic view, the chamber still urged members to join in a letter-writing campaign to elected officials to assure the route remains.

“We did write a letter explaining how important Amtrak service is to Glenwood Springs,” said chamber staffer Lori Hogan.

The update reminded chamber members this isn’t the first time Amtrak has threatened to cut train service.

“The last time severe cuts were threatened, we began an extensive letter-writing campaign, and (U.S. Sen.) Ben Nighthorse Campbell successfully persuaded Congress to maintain funding,” it said.

Last month the railroad applied for an additional $1.2 billion in funding to keep the government-run railroad operating at its current levels. If the money is not appropriated, long-distance routes including the Zephyr will be cut, railroad officials said.

“There’s really nothing new,” Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson said this week. “It’s up to Congress now and we don’t really know what, if any, routes will be cut.”

Amtrak’s California Zephyr, which stops in Glenwood Springs along its Chicago and San Francisco route, is among a tentative list of 18 long-distance train routes that could be eliminated by the struggling agency on Oct. 1. Amtrak is required by law to give 180 days notice before discontinuing train service, so a final list will be unveiled March 29.

“The (notice of) discontinuations will go out at the end of the month no matter what, but they can be ignored,” Johnson said.

Federal lawmakers from Colorado were unclear about their positions on whether additional funding should be granted to Amtrak.

Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo. and Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, are awaiting the outcome of the Amtrak Reform Council meetings before formulating a definitive stance on the issue.

Campbell’s press secretary, Camden Hubbard, said the senator hasn’t taken a position yet.

“He’s taking it on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “When it comes to funding, it really has to go – this year especially – to the people who need it. There has to be an absolutely clear case that someone needs it.”

Allard has not taken a position on the Amtrak funding question yet either, spokeswoman Kelly Brady said.

“He’s looking at additional hearings,” she said. “There are several proposals and he’s looking at those proposals.”

McInnis is also straddling the political fence on the Amtrak issue. “The congressman does feel that in some rural communities of Colorado, Amtrak is the only service,” McInnis press secretary Blaine Rethmeier said.

“Although some of the funding has been abused in the past, we’re continuing to look at the legislation and the amount of Amtrak funding in the budget,” he said.

The Zephyr is the only passenger train that runs through or stops at Glenwood Springs. It stops here twice daily, once in each direction for five to seven minutes, enough time to load and unload luggage and passengers.

According to a local Amtrak employee, a total of about 34,000 people either board or depart each year in Glenwood Springs, Hogan said, with many of them coming from Denver and the Front Range. This makes the train an important piece of the tourism engine that drives Glenwood Springs.

“Obviously tourism is important to him,” Brady said of Allard. “He just wants to see what all the options are.”

A decision on the funding could come from Congress in early April, she said.

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