May 14, 2014 7:39 PM by Andy Koen

Celebration at Union Depot over railroad bill signing

PUEBLO - There was live music and an antique car on display for the crowd gathered at the Pueblo Union Depot to watch Governor John Hickenlooper sign a law that could eventually bring passenger train service back to Pueblo.

The legislation creates a commission representing Colorado in a multi-state agreement applying for a federal TIGER transportation grant to repair the railroad used by Amtrak's Southwest Chief Line.

The track needs about $200 million worth of in repairs through as it crosses through Colorado, Kansas and New Mexico to continue to meet standards for passenger travel. The governor said all three states need to participate to make the project affordable.

"I've got to sit down with the other governors and see if they're really going to play. If they don't play, it makes it very, very hard for us," Hickenlooper said.

"I think that Amtrak and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, they've been more than fair, but at a certain point in the next year or two, we're going to have to step up and start writing some checks."

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace praised the cooperation between state and local politicians in supporting the project. He also sought to temper expectations about the speed of the project.

"Folks shouldn't think that we're going to have a stop here next year, but if we want a stop here in five years, this was a key stop on the process that needed to happen," Pace said.

The railroad is owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe who has contributed $2 million toward the matching funds for the TIGER grant. Amtrak has added $4 million and the Kansas Department of Transportation has pledged $3 million.

A group of 11 cities, counties and tourism boards in Southern Colorado have collectively pledged $254,000 to the project.


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