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Missouri Amtrak service hearing

From the Washington, Mo., Missourian


Amtrak's Future Main Topic at Hearing
Passenger rail service is tied closely to the history of Franklin County
and should be enhanced, Mayor Dick Stratman told a General Assembly 
Joint Interim Committee on Multimodal Transportation Tuesday at city

The committee, chaired by State Sen. John Griesheimer, Washington, has 
been holding hearings across the state on multimodal transportation.

Mayor Stratman told of the benefits to Washington from Amtrak passenger 
service, noting that it is vital to the economy of the downtown section.

He said more needs to be done to promote Amtrak so more people would get
used to traveling by rail.

Building ridership was stressed by the mayor.

On another point, he said he believes that consideration should be given
to a cost-sharing program, with communities helping to subsidize the 
service. He told The Missourian that communities may not be able to 
provide much financial help, but any contribution would show the state 
that the service is needed.

State Rep. Kevin Threlkeld, Washington, a member of the committee, has 
been exploring cost-charing. He believes the current last-minute funding
to keep Amtrak going every year is reaching a limit.

State Sen. Michael Gibbons may have set the tone for the Washington 
hearing when he said the state and General Assembly "can't keep going on
the track we've been on--we're in a holding pattern." He was referring 
to last-minute appropriations to subsidize Amtrak every year.

"We need long term vision on this. We need to consider all issues and 
build a case . . . it's essential to enhance other modes of 
transportation . . . to move people and products . . . we need to find 
the best way to get there."

At a hearing in Kirkwood Monday, Rep. David Pearce, Warrensburg, vice 
chairman of the committee, said the panel is looking for ways to help 
Amtrak better use Missouri tax dollars.

The committee will make recommendations to the General Assembly on how 
to establish public/private partnerships with railroads to complete 
infrastructure improvements that will reduce track congestion and 
improve on-time performance of trains. The committee also is looking at 
ways to reduce Amtrak dependence on state general revenue by increasing 
efficiencies, exploring dedicated funding sources and establishing 
community support requirements.

Representatives of the Washington Area Chamber of Commerce and the 
tourism commission attended the hearing, along with private citizens and
other city officials.

Also providing testimony Tuesday morning were Mike Payette, Union 
Pacific Railroad, and Brian Weiler, Missouri Department of

Missouri will provide $6.2 million in fundinjg to Amtrak this fiscal 
year. Amtrak provides twice daily rail passenger service from St. Louis 
to Kansas City. There are eight stops along the route.

More than 20,000 passengers a year board and leave trains at the 
Washington stop. Conflicting reports were given on ridership in the 
state last year. The committee was told there was a drop in ridership 
the past year. The low figure mentioned was 167,000 riders with the high
being about 400,000. The latter apparently includes those passengers who
use the St. Louis to Chicago service.

There was considerable discussion on the economic and transportation 
impacts if barge transportation is eliminated. Another topic was on the 
need for a "double track" all the way from St. Louis to Kansas City. 
There is only a single track for a section between Jefferson City and 
Kansas City.'

Sheila Steelman, community development director for Pacific, was the 
first to testify Tuesday morning. Pacific is not an Amtrak stop now. She
urged that Amtrak consider making a regular stop there.

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