Lawmakers receive update on potential Amtrak expansion through south-central Kansas
Its been nearly 6 years since Amtrak led an inspection train through Wichita, trying to gauge interest in extending its "Heartland Flyer" line which would connect its station in Newton to Oklahoma City through Wichita.
It found plenty of support from people in the city but never the financial support to start the project. That soon could change.
Derek James, Amtrak's director of governmental relations, says the company "put forward, a vision that we called "Amtrak connects us" on what passenger rail could really be in the united states" back in 2020 that showed a major expansion in rail services.
The passenger rail company is looking to make that a reality with the $66 billion it was allocated from the bi-partisan infrastructure bill. That money would go to both enhancing current rail lines and expanding into new corridors.
James says for Kansas, “the real key to you guys is we want to expand here in the Midwest, talked about the extension of the existing Heartland Flyer service up to Newton via Wichita. We're also looking at setting up a new corridor out of Denver and Colorado, and then expansions down in Texas."
Monday, state lawmakers heard from Amtrak as well as KDOT and others about the expansion and where the state stands in getting a share of that federal funding to become an Amtrak corridor.
Corey Davis, KDOT's director of multi-modal transportation says right now the state is in a good spot. “We are ahead of the game. Where other states are applying for funds to just write a scope for the service development plan, we have one already underway, folks under contract, and actions being taken."
State officials say they will submit a joint application with Oklahoma to become one of the new rail corridors way before the march deadline. If it's approved, the dream of restarting rail services in south central Kansas could become reality.
Davis says “this isn't something that's going to happen overnight. But there are federal resources to make it happen much more quickly.’
Amtrak officials say once they received all applications for the corridor ID program, it'll take until the end of the year to announce who received funding