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Winter 2004

This is the Internet version of the MOKSRail print newsletter.


Fall 2004

P. O. Box 1183

Mission, KS  66202-1183

Next MOKSRail Meeting

Saturday, Nov. 6, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Kansas City Union Station –Missouri Rm. – 3rd Floor, north side

The next MOKSRail meeting is Saturday, November 6, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.  Please plan to attend.

The fall meeting will be in the same room our group has had the last few meetings: the Missouri Room, which is on the third floor, north side of the station. No food and drinks will be allowed in the meeting room. Pete & Carolyn McMasters have generously secured this free meeting space from KCUS.

Officer Elections: The meeting will be important since our group plans to hold officer elections. John Mills, Topeka, who has served as president since Oct. 2003, said he’s “just about washed out. I can’t do much good over here in Topeka, with everyone over there (Kansas City area).

Mills, a former MOKSRail chairman who has been involved in passenger rail advocacy since MOKSRail was first organized, says he plans to remain involved in the group.

“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” he said. “There wouldn’t’ be any trains in Missouri if

wasn’t for us; just like there wouldn’t  be any national trains if not for the National Association of Rail Passengers.”

Having family matters to attend to, Mills, 74, said it is harder for him to leave town.  It’s best to turn the reigns over to someone else, he said. 

Doug Ohlemeier, Independence, Mo., serves as vice president, webmaster and newsletter editor. Wayne Sangster, Prairie Village, Kan., is secretary; John Wegner, Roeland Park, Kan., is treasurer.

MOKSRail Testifies at State Legislative Amtrak Hearing

MOKSRail member Jim Schmitt from Liberty, Mo., volunteered his time to travel to Warrensburg, Mo., Sept. 8 to testify before a legislative committee on the future of Missouri’s Amtrak service.

The Joint Interim Committee on State Supported Passenger Rail Service and Multimodal Transportation was created to, among other things, study some of the challenges facing Amtrak.  The nonpartisan committee is made up of five state senators and five state representatives.

Some recommendations in a committee report due in January shall include how to establish public/private partnerships with railroads to complete infrastructure improvements that will reduce track congestion, improve on-time performance of trains and reduce dependence on state continued 

general revenue support by increasing efficiencies, exploring dedicated funding sources and establishing local community support requirements. 

MOKSRail testified it supports initiatives to improve rail transport infrastructure. Improvements made to privately owned rail freight lines will benefit passenger operations by reducing freight train congestion that cause frequent delays of Amtrak trains.  Infrastructure improvements can also benefit the state by allowing railroads to carry more freight that would have normally gone over the highways.

While MOKSRail members also support increasing efficiencies, the goal should not be to reduce state operating subsidies. MOKSRail pointed out that reducing funding goes against the national trend that's seeing state governments such as Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin increasing their investments in passenger rail and providing citizens alternative transportation forms.

North Carolina has made substantial investments in its passenger service, investing $120 million in station renovation and shortening travel times between Raleigh and Charlotte through a $26 million track improvement program.

Oregon, over the past four years, has invested $15 million in capital improvements to add crossovers, extend double tracking and other infrastructure improvements to make the trains run on-time.

Since Oregon deals with the Union Pacific Railroad, the state is a good example for Missouri to follow. Oregon has a good working relationship with the U.P.  Amtrak, the U.P, and the state of Oregon are all partners who sat down at table and worked together, according to NARP.

The U.P. provided  the state a list of improvements that were needed and the state made other targeted investments to improve the operation and reliability of the trains it runs between Eugene and Portland.

Just as those states invest in highway and airport construction, the states see positives in providing a balanced transportation system. Missouri should invest more in its Amtrak service. Current service should not only be improved, but additional service to other areas of the state such as Springfield should be considered.

Partnerships should be made with other states, such as Illinois, which has been making improvements to the track between Chicago and St. Louis, allowing for higher speed service.

Schmitt said the event was well attended. He said discussion of private ownership made the Union Pacific people jump.  Central Missouri State University, Warrensburg, had some professors their and their students who frequently ride the train to and from Kansas City and St. Louis.

Lawmakers look at the number of passengers and cost per each and how much the state must add to the ticket, Schmitt said. An Amtrak representative said it is strange to come back each year for funding.

"I came away with the feeling that these people really don't know how to create new money for passenger trains, “Schmitt said. “Instead of looking at the budget and what can be taken out, they continue business as usual.  The charts will show zero advertising dollars the past few years and what can you expect if no money is spent.”


The National Association of Rail Passengers has created a new version flyer for members to copy and distribute in stations, on board trains or at other appropriate venues.  Click on "Action Alert" at NARP returned to the eye-catching "four maps" format. The flyer tells the tale of the precipitously low funding of the U.S. passenger rail system in very stark terms.


Lawrence Lobbies To Keep Amtrak

City appeals to Congress to increase funding to encourage rail travel

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- City officials are lobbying the Kansas congressional delegation to support funding for Amtrak, saying the passenger railroad is a vital link in the city's transportation system.

"Not everybody has a car," said mayor Mike Rundle in a July 20 Lawrence Journal-World story. He said there needs to be a complete transportation system.

Rundle's letter to the state’s representatives in Washington came a week after a House subcommittee recommended a $900 million budget for Amtrak in 2005 - a $300 million cut from this year and half of what the railroad requested.

Amtrak's death would hurt the more than 2,200 riders who road the Southwest Chief at Lawrence in 2003. More than 25,000 Kansans rode Amtrak in 2003. In his letter, Rundle said the city supported Amtrak's request for $1.8 billion.

"Providing transportation alternatives such as Amtrak to the Lawrence community is important," he said in the letter. "Rail transportation provides intercity travel opportunities for Lawrence citizens that can prove affordable and pleasurable and provides an opportunity to take advantage of the scenery."

An Amtrak spokesman said half of Amtrak's request would go for long-deferred maintenance and overhauls of aging equipment. Amtrak frequently doesn’t have enough cars in a state of good repair to serve the customers who want to ride now, he said.

The article reported how Republican Sen. Sam Brownback said Amtrak must be reformed to become a viable company. Sen. Pat Roberts hadn't staked out a position on the issue.

Senator John Kerry Supports Amtrak Funding


Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said he supports and will increase federal funding for Amtrak. Kerry said he has been a vocal opponent of President Bush's proposal to gut the federal commitment to Amtrak and to force cash-strapped state governments to pick up half of its operating cost.

“The nation faces a choice regarding rail service,” he said. “We can choose to reform Amtrak and give it the resources to build a forward-looking national rail system or we can choose to deny countless communities train service.”



“I will also propose an expansion of
our national rail service… By investing in high-speed rail, constructing new routes and providing incentives for people to use rail
service, we can reduce the volume of highway traffic because Americans will have a reliable alternative for regional and national travel.



Pictured: John Kerry’s campaign train visits Kansas City Union Station Aug. 6 as part of a multi-state train campaign. (Photo by Ohlemeier)




LA JUNTA, Colo. -- If funding cuts shut down Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, the Lower Arkansas River Valley's economy will suffer, two city administrators told the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper Sept. 24.

The city’s manager was quoted as saying that the loss of the passenger rail service would be a blow to the city -- it's one of our major transportation links. Lamar's city administrator said Amtrak is a vital part of Lamar's transportation infrastructure. He said Amtrak is important to Lamar’s ability to provide another mode of transportation to its citizens and tourists.

President Bush's funding proposals would force Amtrak to stop running in the next fiscal year, Amtrak says.

The Colorado city leaders said rail transportation is one of the only transportation methods that serve rural communities. Without Amtrak, there will be less of a need for the BNSF tracks that run through Southeastern Colorado, they said. Those tracks are important to southeast Colorado’s economy.

More than 5,600 people board the train at La Junta a year. People come from Pueblo and other parts of the Front
Range to ride Amtrak, he said.



Pro Rail Nebraska is having its membership meeting Saturday, October 23, in Nebraska City 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. If interested in attending, contact for details.

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