- Associated Press - Monday, December 10, 2018

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita officials are pushing for Amtrak to restore rail service in the city that hasn’t had a passenger train service for nearly 40 years, but Sedgwick County officials aren’t ready to embrace the plan.

Bringing back the rail service is near the top of the city’s lobbying agenda when the state legislative session begins next month, the Wichita Eagle reported.

“Passenger rail is evolving as a key component for keeping and attracting young people as part of a strong workforce,” the legislative platform said. “In addition, it provides a safe travel option for an aging population.”

But Sedgwick County didn’t even put Amtrak service on its list of transportation priorities to a state committee evaluating Kansas’ long-term transportation plans.

David Dennis, the county commission’s chairman, said he can’t make a decision on the issue until he knows the service’s cost and benefits.

Wichita may have better chances of getting Amtrak restored this year, considering available federal funding and healthier state finances.

Amtrak has also decided to continue the route from Los Angeles to Chicago, which any Wichita train service would need to connect to. The railway currently offers a bus that passes through Wichita to fill a gap in rail service between stations in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Newton, Kansas, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

More than 1,700 Wichita travelers took the bus to connect to the train in Newton over the past year, Magliari said.

Pete Meitzner, a leading advocate for Wichita’s passenger rail, recently won a seat on the Sedgwick County Commission. He hopes to change the county’s stance on the service when he joins this commission in January.

Meitzner said cost estimates for the rail service have been requested but haven’t been completed. He expects initial costs to be minimal, since the passenger rail could use the city’s existing tracks.

Amtrak conducted a test run on the tracks last year that was determined to be successful.


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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