|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, used by Amtrak and owned by Union Pacific Railroad, 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 Missouri House is currently considering state funding for Amtrak service and capital improvements.
Editor's note: A Joplin resident recently complimented Amtrak service from Kansas City to Penn Station/New York City with a stopover in Chicago's Union Station. Although the trip exceeded 20 hours, he and his family chose to ride coach, he said, and made themselves comfortable, bringing their own pillows. The cost of the trip and minimal hassle with security were part of the decision to avoid flying.