Last week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed legislation to preserve the current route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, helping to secure the jobs of locomotive engineers and other unionized crafts.
Supported by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the new law establishes a Commission charged with securing the means necessary to keep the Southwest Chief running through Southwest Kansas, Southeast Colorado and Northern New Mexico.
With the signing of HB 14-1161, Colorado joins Kansas and New Mexico in a multi-state partnership applying for $24.5 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pay for repairs to the railroad tracks that the Southwest Chief travels on. Amtrak had reported that it may need to re-route or cancel the Southwest Chief service if tracks were not upgraded.
Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in Colorado were active in lobbying to save the Southwest Chief and in supporting HB 14-1161, reports Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman Jim Wilmesher. Brother Wilmesher attended the signing ceremony on behalf of the BLET.
“The Governor spoke briefly about this new law being demonstrative of Colorado’s commitment to keeping the Amtrak Southwest Chief and its current routing with the possibility of adding a couple of additional stops,” Brother Wilmesher said. “His comments spoke to all the hard work of the Pueblo County Commissioners, Representatives of La Junta, Lamar, Walsenberg, Pueblo, Trinidad in Colorado, and La Vegas, Raton, and other municipalities in New Mexico and Kansas that have banded together to retain this passenger rail service.”
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked Brother Wilmesher and the BLET members in Colorado who played a role in lobbying to save the Southwest Chief.
“The passage of HB14-1161 into law shows the commitment that Colorado has to keeping, maintaining and improving this vital passenger rail corridor through Colorado,” President Pierce said. “I am proud to thank Chairman Wilmesher and all our members in Colorado for a job well done.”