P. O. Box 1183, Mission, KS 66202-1183
Lee’s Summit, Mo. & Garden City, Kan. receive new facilities.
Calling its new rail passenger facility “a very important investment in our downtown and a very important gateway,” Lee’s Summit city leaders July 12 dedicated its Amtrak station. The station, constructed of glass and wood, is located on the east side of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and sets across from the historic 1905 Missouri Pacific station that serves as the city’s chamber of commerce offices. The station is part of the Kansas City suburb’s new small city Howard Station Park.
“I can't help but wonder what value all of this would bring to our community,” said Ron Williams, Lee’s Summit city council member and mayor pro tem. “Certainly, it adds some character to the area and shows pride in the community. Through the combined efforts of the Parks & Recreation and city staffs, supported by the mayor and city council, I hope the citizens believe this shows commitment to excellence for our community. It's time and place and value.”
Speakers at the station’s dedication recognized the facility as a reception area for passengers arriving downtown Lee’s Summit.
“I've been up here a lot. My folks come over from St. Louis to help me campaign and to help with our kids, we drop them off here frequently. This is just a changed place,” said State Representative Matt Bartle.
Jan Skouby, administrator or railroads and waterways, multimodal operations for the Missouri Department of Transportation, Jefferson City, told the crowd that cities from all along the corridor from St. Louis to Kansas City are understanding the importance of passenger rail and how a rail station can provide an anchoring for the community.
“There have been millions of dollars along this corridor that have been put into stations,” she said. “Lee's Summit is one very good example of that. It's an anchor for a city's revitalization. Communities are seeing that. It gives them a tourism edge. The ones that have this service are seeing more tourism expand their economic base. Because it's such a central focal point for many communities, I thank the Lee’s Summit community for allowing transportation to be such a viable part and anchor in its downtown area.”
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Once again, thanks to congressional micromanagement, Amtrak’s long distance trains remain in jeopardy. The House Appropriations Committee Sept. 26 voted on party lines 35-25 against an amendment funding Amtrak at $1.2 billion. The House's $762 million total funding level will not support the entire system, and Amtrak cannot slim down to a lower grant level by cutting routes, said the National Association of Railroad Passengers.
The committee dropped a controversial provision to end service on routes with a per-passenger loss over $200, and replaced it with a $150 million cap on total long-distance operating grants. (Since the long-distance network requires at least $350 million, this new provision is crippling system wide but apparently was seen as less painful because it is not accompanied by a short, specific list of affected routes.)
The $150-million cap on long-distance train operating funding would have ended (by July 1, 2003) service on routes where a per-passenger loss over $200 is claimed, hitting six trains – two of which serve Missouri and Kansas - the Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, Kentucky Cardinal, Three Rivers, and Pennsylvanian.
NARP wrote the committee underlining its support for $1.2 billion and pointing out that "subsidy per passenger" is not a measure of economic efficiency. A per-passenger loss -- a standard not used for any other form of intercity passenger
other form of intercity passenger travel -- inordinately punishes routes that have passengers traveling long distances, or
significant mail and/or express traffic. NARP has argued that more appropriate measures, such as loss-per-passenger-
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Ribbon cutting ceremonies at the new Lee’s Summit station, July 12. The station is part of a city park.
Skouby also cited Hermann and Washington, Mo., as other cities that have made strong investments into their rail passenger stations.
The city of Lee’s Summit’s 64+ square miles is one of Missouri’s fastest growing communities. Missouri’s third largest city, Lee’s Summit is ranked as the state’s second fastest growing city.
Lee’s Summit’s first railroad station, opened in 1865, was only a boxcar. A wood frame station burned in 1903. With an elevation of 1,050 feet, the city was first marked by railroad survey crews as the highest point or summit between Kansas City and St. Louis.
The city of Lee’s Summit’s features a picture of its historic train station on its Web page, www.lschamber.com. An important stop for Amtrak, four trains a day call on the growing city.
Renovation finished at Garden City, Kan., station.
Amtrak workers returned inside the historic Garden City, Kan., brick depot Sept. 23. For most of the year Amtrak had been relegated to a small construction trailer with a port-a-potty while the city of Garden City renovated the depot. The east end will continue to be used by BNSF.
Now utilized by Amtrak and Greyhound - TNM&O bus lines, the city, which coordinated the project and contributed $160,000 out of the total $810,000 of its cost, will also have access to the building for civic and social events. The rest of the funding came from federal grants.
The gated platform is 600 feet long and protected by wrought iron fencing. Amtrak agent John Mills, Jr., said he hopes to be able to issue through ticketing between Amtrak and Greyhound connections such as Amarillo and other cities served from Garden City. The station also features taxi service, BNSF offices, and meeting space.
During renovation, the city removed the two large framed photos. One is a hand-colored shot of the 1951 Super Chief on Wootton Curve, N.M., and the other a scenic shot of the Grand Canyon . The Amtrak agent has asked for them to be returned but the city replied they would have to check with the architect to see if it fits with his "vision." A non-working restored wood stove has been placed in the waiting room the wooden benches have been refinished.
With a population of 30,000, Garden City is western Kansas’ largest city. The city is also one of the state’s fastest growing, gaining 20% more people in the 2000 Census. Garden City serves as an important stop for Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which travels from Chicago to Los Angeles through Kansas City.
Also nearing completion is a $4 million project at the Dodge City, Kan., former ATSF depot and Harvey House Hotel and Restaurant.
The Lee’s Summit and Garden City stations are the second and third stations in Kansas and Missouri to be rehabilitated or built over the past year. Refurbishment was completed at the station at LaPlata, Mo., in December 2001.
- Thanks to member John Arbuckle of Hutchinson for providing this information.
mile or operating ratio (total costs divided by total revenues) would come closer to measuring a service's true economic performance. In particular, the Southwest Chief performs much better than some corridor services when measured by operating ratio, according to NARP.
An Associated Press story noted that Subcommittee Chairman Harold Rogers (R.-Ky.) said that every long-distance could continue if ridership and revenues increase, and if states and cities help fund them. Given the fact that Amtrak as a whole is woefully underfunded -- getting about half of what was authorized 1997-2002, and getting barely half what it got 20 years ago (adjusted for inflation) -- and given the fact that Amtrak serves so few intercity markets with so little equipment, and given the utterly unrealistic goal -- shared by the Administration -- of getting "states and cities" to fund the operations of interstate services (including long-distance trains), Rogers' comment implies an unrealistic scenario.
Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Martin Olav Sabo (D.-Minn.) said the funding failure would mean Amtrak will be back asking for more money in a few months, at which point "we would be just as much at fault."
One member said the committee could spend three hours debating Amtrak because "we know more about this subsidy than any other subsidy we provide" and suggested if more was known about other programs, Congress might consider suggesting that highways be ripped up, port dredging terminated and airports closed unless communities spend more money.
Amtrak cannot survive on $762 million (and probably could not even be liquidated for that amount) and cutting routes offers no short-term savings. The Senate Appropriations Committee report on transportation funding said in July that eliminating the 18 long-distance trains would yield effectively zero savings in the first year. Only after 5 years would the elimination of these services yield annual operating savings exceeding $200 million--an amount that will not even cover Amtrak's anticipated debt service payments for that year. And such savings does not represent even 5% of the identified capital backlog in the Northeast Corridor. This analysis prompts the Committee to reject the notion that Amtrak can shrink its way to financial health.
Sen. Ernest Hollings (D.-S.C.) said, "This Congress is so screwed up that we can't get anything done ... Lord knows we have magnificent leadership in (Amtrak) President Gunn. What's really wrong with Amtrak is us in the Congress." After commenting on aviation bailouts, he added that the House wants to underfund Amtrak, saying, "They gotta have reform and have everything else. We gotta reform Congress."
Please continue to contact your representatives and senators, who still need to hear that the committee's vote was short-sighted and wrong, that it ignores the wishes of a majority of Americans who favor federal funding of passenger rail, and that it would destroy nationwide passenger-rail service just a year after the 2001 terror attacks, when a need for a stronger service was clearly demonstrated.
According to NARP, there are growing indications that a final Fiscal 2003 bill will not be done until early in calendar 2003. The House committee's bill may never reach the floor. It is part of a broad disagreement that pits conservative House leaders and the Bush Administration against the Senate and the rest of the House. Most appropriations disputes may end up being resolved by the four senior appropriators, who have a reputation for getting things done without major ideological hang-ups.
The funding crisis also endangers short-distance trains, such as Kansas City – St. Louis. Once the long-hauls are removed, remaining trains would have to absorb a greater share of station operating costs, now shared by all trains.
For the latest information on Amtrak funding, visit NARP’s Web page at www.narprail.org
Missouri’s four daily St. Louis – Kansas City trains remain in jeopardy. When voters Aug. 6 resoundingly defeated Proposition B, they also rejected continued funding of the Show Me State’s Amtrak service.
According to news reports, voters’ rejection of the proposition, which would have raised taxes to fund road improvements, was more of a rejection of the Missouri Department of Transportation and its failure to improve highways following earlier tax hikes. Proponents of the ballot question, when they did campaign for it, rarely mentioned Amtrak funding. The total focus of the package was on highway funding.
Jan Skouby, MODOT’s administrator or railroads and waterways, multimodal operations, said she opposes trimming the national system trains. She said she feels progress is being made on the national level regarding passenger train funding. “If you don't have a good national service, the states can't support it. People don't understand there's a national system and a state system.”
Skouby said the state of Missouri has had a hard time getting on-time and reliable service, because of Union Pacific maintenance of way work, which, according to signs posted at Amtrak stations, stated would be completed by October.
“There have been a lot of maintenance activities going on,” she said. “But it's like whenever they work on the highways, it's inconvenient but people put up with it.”
MOKSRail president John Mills, pictured left, presented a $1,000 check to Joe Donnelly, chairman of the Missouri Rail Passenger Advisory Committee at a July 9 meeting in Jefferson City.
The money, to be used for advertising the train service in the smaller markets of Hermann, Washington, Sedalia and Warrensburg served by the Missouri Mules and Anne Rutledge, represents MOKSRail’s support of the continuation of these trains, said Mills,
a National Association of Railroad Passengers
Director at Large.
Railway advocates lost a strong supporter when one of MOKSRail’s charter members, Mr. Travers Burgess of Kirkwood, Mo., who had suffered declining health, recently passed away at age 82.
Known as “Trav”, he was a respected authority on the history of railroads, streetcars and electric interurbans. Burgess was on the original board of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, where he served for many years. His morning walks often took him to nearby Kirkwood’s station, where he was well known. Trav was a grandson of the station’s first agent.
A World War II veteran, Lt. Burgess served in Alaska. After graduating from Washington University and Law School, he practiced law in Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. He also worked in the patent departments for American Car & Foundry and General Steel Castings Corp and its successors.
- Thanks to Don Scott, NARP member, for providing this information to MOKSRail.
ProRail Nebraska, our rail advocate friends to the north, was formed specifically to extend St. Louis- Kansas City service to Omaha, Neb. ProRail Nebraska member Timothy Vana of Omaha used to have a clipping of an Oct.-Dec. 1998 or 1999 front page of the Omaha World-Herald newspaper about a Kansas City casino that wanted to sponsor a regular daily Amtrak train from Omaha for gamblers. Vana misplaced the clipping. He wants to know the name of the casino and would like a copy of the article.
If anyone recalls seeing this newspaper article or has more information, please contact Vana at email@example.com.
You can also contact newsletter editor Doug Ohlemeier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-795-8775.
This is definitely something that would be of interest to both MOKSRail and the Nebraska advocates.