Off The Rails

Amtrak-train

Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner may be derailed soon. If you haven’t heard, Amtrak’s services may soon be defunct at Kansas City’s Union Station; effectively killing a trans-state passenger rail service utilized by thousands each year. Of course, this only becomes effective if a proposed funding deal to the tune of $32,000,000 for required track upgrades isn’t reached by December.

Missouri-RR-Cooridor-web-1

Amtrak’s passenger route Missouri River Runner in Missouri from St Louis to Kansas City.
The upgrades are called Positive Train Control , or PTC. It’s a safety system that is federally mandated on Class I rails by December.  Amtrak is considered part of that class, even though it doesn’t own the rail. KC Terminal, a group of railroads, does.  KC Terminal is considered Class III, and is exempt from the upgrade mandate.

There’s now a legal dispute between Amtrak and KC Terminal over whether or not the group is not responsible for the cost of the required upgrades. Amtrak, with only six routes through Kansas City each day is barely a blip on the radar of Kansas City’s overall rail transit portfolio. Which effectively means that while Amtrak only accounts for roughly three percent of the overall rail traffic for the rails in question they’re still expected to pay the full cost of the mandated upgrades; which to their and everyone’s (excluding Terminal KC’s of course) eyes is a gross injustice at best.

Amtrak said it can’t afford the cost, which is forcing them to potentially stop the Southwest Chief route to and from Chicago and the Missouri River Runner route to and from St. Louis.

Luckily, Senator McCaskill agrees.

She has introduced legislation to push back the December deadline to 2020 — to give more time to sort out the cost of upgrades.

“Some perspective: The Missouri legislature helped supplement Amtrak to the tune of about 8 million dollars a year. So, the notion they’re going to come up with 30 million dollars in one lump sum to pay for this technology is unrealistic,” McCaskill said.

UNITED STATES - MAY 23: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., participates in the news conference to announce

Senator McCaskill, a vocal proponent of the continued funding of rail service in Missouri.
If her bill isn’t passed and the deadline remains, it could derail a travel option chosen over 700,000 times a year by travelers in Missouri. Around 157,000 of these travelers come and go from Union Station in Kansas City. The cancellation could also be felt on the west coast. The Southwest Chief route connects Los Angeles to Chicago through Kansas City.

Our take?

We fully support Senator McCaskill’s legislative efforts in pushing the compliance deadline back to 2020. The rail service linking St. Louis to Kansas City is an important point of pride for our state and should be continued.

24th State Solutions

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