- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - A group of Emporia residents is exploring the possibility of returning Amtrak service to the northeast Kansas City.

The Emporia Amtrak Task Force is trying to raise funds for an impact study to replace a train station that was destroyed by a 1999 fire, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/UjsPbV ). The group recently filed for nonprofit status with the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office.

Amtrak’s supporters said a train depot would improve the city’s economic development efforts and provide transportation for the elderly and international students at Emporia State University. They said it also could bring people into the city to shop, attend business meetings, or visit family or the city’s attractions.

Task force members are discussing its benefits with officials, including Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, Emporia State University and community leaders.

“Everywhere Amtrak goes, it leaves an economic footprint,” said the Rev. Andrew McHenry, a task force member.

McHenry is a pastor of the First Congregational Church in Emporia. Other task force members include Lyon County Undersheriff John Koelsch and Emporia residents Phil Dillon and Casey Woods, executive director of Emporia Main Street.

“We want to build it at a place where students can get to,” McHenry said. “We want the place to be practical - something that will be equivalent to a highway rest stop, a building of that size and cost.”

The cost of a train station isn’t known since a building plan hasn’t been approved yet. Right now the closest station on the Southwest Chief line between Chicago and Los Angeles is in Topeka, 60 miles away.

Amtrak dealing with other issues in Kansas. Officials recently said passenger service to the western part of the state could be lost unless funding is found to rehabilitate the track.

A $15 million federal grant is pending to work on the line. It would be matched with $4 million from Amtrak, $2 million from BSNF - which owns the tracks the Southwest Chief runs on - and $3 million from the state.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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