Byram: Amtrak provides essential transportation link

Kingman officials have told the Arizona congressional delegation Amtrak is an essential transportation link for the area, Mayor Les Byram said Monday.

"We communicated with them earlier and they know how we feel," Byram said.

"Subsidy for rail passengers is as important as it is for air and highway travel."

The House Appropriations Committee approved $762 million for Amtrak last week, less than the $1.2 billion approved earlier by the Senate.

The difference will be worked our in a conference committee.

The Southwest Chief route from Chicago to Los Angeles through Kingman was one of six lines Republican lawmakers discussed as routes to be cut.

Instead, the bill left operations and any cutting of service to Amtrak.

City staff members asked Amtrak officials about the cut in service following the House action.

Frank T.

Hall, Amtrak director of intercity rail service out of Chicago, said there is a lot happening on the Southwest Chief route.

Stations have been renovated in Kansas City and Garden City, Kan.

Flagstaff has a renovated station and Kingman has a grant for renovation of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway depot, which will be leased to Amtrak.

Phil Nerkowski, Amtrak service manager in Albuquerque, said from two to seven passengers either get off or board the train in Kingman each day.

Average weekly passenger count is between 14 and 50 who board or leave the train in Kingman.

Annual passenger count at Flagstaff reached 40,000 and at Williams 2,600.

Grand Canyon National Park visitors and Northern Arizona University students use the Southwest Chief.

Hall said the Amtrak route through Northern Arizona is the shortest route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

An earlier congressional agreement allowed Amtrak to borrow $100 million to continue service past July 1.

David L.

Gunn, Amtrak president, said that would result in a better-operated company with more open books.

The No.

3 Amtrak westbound passenger train is scheduled to stop in Kingman at 12:15 a.m.

seven days per week.

The eastbound No.

4 train is scheduled to stop at 2:25 a.m.

each morning, Nerkowski said.

Bill Shilling, grants administrator for the city of Kingman, said an Amtrak shutdown could cause a major delay in plans to renovate the depot in historic downtown Kingman.

"We are in the final stages of an agreement with BNSF and Amtrak for Amtrak to lease the depot for offices and a passenger waiting room," Shilling said.

"Amtrak and BNSF are essentially in agreement with legal details being worked out."

Amtrak currently uses a waiting room on Fourth Street north of the depot replacing the waiting room partially remodeled in the depot.

Kingman would sublease the remainder of the interior, possibly for a railroad museum.

.

That arrangement would provide a desirable use for the depot that is needed for the Arizona Department of Transportation and the city of Kingman to proceed with a $500,000 depot renovation project.

Otwell and Associates, a historical architectural firm, will design the renovation.

"If Amtrak were shut down, the city would have to start over and that would delay this important downtown project," Byram said.

If the project is not delayed, construction is about two years away, Shilling said.