- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A federal budget proposal that puts a passenger train route that passes through Kansas at risk is raising concerns.

At issue is a provision in President Donald Trump’s budget that calls for the elimination of federal subsidies for some long-distance train routes, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/2pJGetT ) reports.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said in an email that the final and full budget plan for Amtrak’s federal aid hasn’t been released. But he confirmed that among “several services targeted” would be the Southwest Chief, which spans from Chicago to Los Angeles. It has stops in several Kansas towns, including Topeka, Lawrence, Garden City and Hutchinson.

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins has voiced concern, saying in a statement that “infrastructure is vital to Kansas and rural America” and that she couldn’t support the $2.4 billion cut to the Department of Transportation’s budget. She said she would work with other lawmakers to create a “responsible, balanced budget.” Kansas generates just shy of 50,000 passengers per year for Amtrak.

Among those affected would be Ronald Smith of Elkhart, Indiana, who travels cross country, usually by rail, for Auto Driveaway, a New Orleans-based trucking company. In Topeka, he picks up Frito-Lay trucks and drives them to wherever they’re needed.

If Topeka’s station or any of the other long-distance routes close, it could be problematic, Smith said. Flying into small airports is costly, and buses aren’t as reliable, he said.

“You stop at these little towns where there’s not much else,” Smith said. “I could still get in and out, but it’d be more money out my pocket, or I’d be camping on a bus somewhere.”

In Lawrence, the city has worked with Amtrak and BNSF to transfer ownership of the station to the city and refurbish the building, assistant city manager Diane Stoddard said. In 2013, the city received a $1.2 million grant from the state for the project, and the real estate transaction should close some time this year.

“There are a number of local passengers who utilize the Lawrence Amtrak station,” Stoddard said. “Having the Amtrak station here has been a transportation asset for the community for many years.”

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

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