Monday, April 30, 2018

Loss of New Mexico passenger rail is a failure of conscience


Our Lady of the Arroyo and this interested party were in Lamy yesterday and took the opportunity to have a long talk with Bob Sarr before picking up a couple who got on Amtrak's Southwest Chief at Chicago.
Amtrak said Friday it plans to close the sales window at the century-old Mission Revival-style station, a casualty of changing ticket-purchasing habits. The station itself, which functions as the Santa Fe stop on the Southwest Chief route between Chicago and Los Angeles, will remain on the line, despite some concerns to the contrary voiced recently by Santa Fe County officials. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built the Lamy station in 1909. The ticket window is the second train-related loss to strike the small community southeast of Santa Fe in quick succession. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
The State of New Mexico bought the track bed from just north of Lamy to Behlen from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway when the Rail Runner was built. BNSF owns virtually all the rail rights of way in New Mexico.
When it took on debt to build the Rail Runner, the state opted to shift major payments on the train until the last years of those bonds, with the money primarily coming out of the state road fund. Now linking Santa Fe to Albuquerque and points south, the Rail Runner’s declining ridership has led fiscal hawks in particular to argue the commuter rail system amounts to a boondoggle. That means the state would pay off the Rail Runner over a longer period of time — for three more years, through 2030. It also means the state would start paying off a bigger share of the debt sooner, smoothing out the big spikes in payments. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
My maternal grandfather was a career conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. I have at least one vague memory from my toddlerhood going over the Continental Divide in Colorado while riding the California Zephyr between Omaha and Emeryville, California near Castle AFB where my dad was stationed and the place of my birth. Now, growth on the Front Range is driving planners to pick up the pace on passenger rail.
The federal Department of Transportation approved a grant request from Colfax County under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, better known as TIGER. The $16 million award, combined with millions of dollars in state and corporate investments, will “fund critical repair work in New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado,” said a news release issued Wednesday from New Mexico’s congressional delegation. “The Southwest Chief is an engine of economic growth in New Mexico that connects rural communities from Raton to Gallup,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said in the release. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich and U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Lujan Grisham also praised the grant. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
The absence of a solution to the rail crisis in New Mexico represents a massive failure of conscience.

Legal cannabis for New Mexico's adults could help foot the bill for Positive Train Control and it's time to equip the Rail Runner to connect with Amtrak farther south in New Mexico then on to El Paso and put the Rail Runner into downtown Denver to connect with the California Zephyr, maybe into Cheyenne, Wyoming. It's time to connect the Southwest Chief to the Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana through Denver, too.

Who's with me?

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