Friday, September 03, 2010

Kansas weighs two Amtrak route options

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Kansas state transportation planners have narrowed their proposals for expanded Amtrak passenger rail service across the state to two possible options.

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One option would provide nighttime service for what Amtrak estimates would be 92,500 passengers a year between Newton, Kan., and Fort Worth, Tex., essentially linking Amtrak's Southwestern Chief, which passes through Newton on its Chicago-Los Angeles run, to the Heartland Flyer, which runs from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth.

A second, more expensive option would offer daytime service between Kansas City, Mo.,  and Fort Worth for a projected 174,000 passengers annually over the same general route, requiring more equipment and additional improvements to track and facilitiesalong the way.

Depending on th option, officials estimate the service will require either $154 million for infrastructure and equipment costs, plus apotential $3.2 million annual operating subsidy paid by state funding, or in the second case $476 million for infrastructure and equipment, plus $8 million annually in state support.

The state is working on more detailed business plans for both routes during the next 12 months to present to Kansas state legislators in the 2012 session, said Dennis Slimmer, a transportation department spokesman.