NEWTON, Kan.--- Executives of Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway made a whistle-stop trip on the passenger railroad's Southwest Chief today.
"Newton is the most popular stop in Kansas today. We think it's important to Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico. The whole interior part of our nation is served by Amtrak," said Joe Boardman, President and CEO of Amtrak.
Conversations continue regarding an agreement to fix the route for passenger service. If an agreement is not made by 2016, the Southwest Chief service could be threatened.
"The jeopardy is (that) unless we can get the investment and capital that's necessary, the speed of the train gets lower and lower and lower and then that becomes impractical to run passenger service," said Boardman.
Officials with Amtrak and Newton said there are active conversations to preserve the line in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico.
"It's an important part of our economy. This is a rail town, through and through. We like the idea of having that part of the economy here. It's also about choice," said Randy Riggs, Newton City Manager.
Riggs is also in conversations with Wichita officials regarding rail service that would connect Newton south through Wichita and on to Oklahoma and Texas.
"Get involved. Be engaged," said Boardman. "Today, folks that want the service, need to be involved."