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Missouri Department of Transportation

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MoDOT News Release 

For more information contact Jeff Briggs at (573) 751-5985 or Sally Oxenhandler at (573) 751-7456.

March 24, 2008 12:00 AM
MoDOT, Amtrak Outline Funding Proposal To Revitalize Passenger Rail Service in Missouri
"Current Service Is Unacceptable"

ST. LOUIS - While passenger rail is growing across the country, trains in Missouri are routinely late and ridership is declining.  State and national officials said today that a legislative proposal to improve Amtrak service should stop that trend and revitalize passenger rail between Kansas City and St. Louis.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, along with Amtrak, today called for state approval of a $10.6 million funding increase that will boost on-time performance and ridership.  The proposal calls for new track sections to handle more trains, as well as electronic on-time messaging boards at the ten stations across the state.

"Simply put, the current level of passenger rail service is unacceptable," said MoDOT Director Pete Rahn.  "The tracks between St. Louis and Kansas City are overloaded and can't handle all the freight and passenger trains.  If we're serious about other transportation options in this state, we've got to invest in this important travel mode between our two largest cities."

Amtrak carried 208,000 passengers in 2001, but only 144,000 last year as increasing train congestion and maintenance of the aging tracks created delays that sometimes reached two or three hours.  "We are seeing ridership increases on virtually every Amtrak route in all 46 states, with the exception of the route in Missouri between Kansas City and St. Louis," said Ray Lang,

Amtrak Senior Director, Government Affairs.  "The capital investment being sought by MoDOT would provide the state with a more dependable service that would attract more passengers.  These trains could serve as a foundation for more service in the future, with states on four sides of Missouri looking at ways to add new Amtrak service."          

The tracks used by Amtrak between Kansas City and St. Louis are owned by Union Pacific Railroad and are busy with freight shipments.  "With the amount of traffic, it is particularly challenging giving preference to Amtrak," said Tom Mulligan of Union Pacific.  "Here in the middle of the country we're handling record volumes, and the tracks sometimes can't handle all the traffic."

Other states rely on new revenue to upgrade facilities and grow ridership.  Seven years ago in Illinois, ridership between St. Louis and Chicago was virtually the same as St. Louis to Kansas City in Missouri, at a little more than 200,000.  Since then, Illinois officials have spent $100 million on upgrades, resulting in ridership that's nearly doubled to 409,000.

"Rails are no different than highways or airports or any other mode of transportation - you've got to keep improving them to keep them successful," said Tom Shrout, executive director of Citizens For Modern Transit, a rail advocacy group in St. Louis.  "Amtrak can be a terrific service - offer transportation to those who can't drive, ease congestion on our highways, improve the environment - but we must invest what it takes to keep it viable."

The Missouri House is currently considering state funding for Amtrak service and capital improvements.

For more information visit http://www.morail.org/.

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