May 9, 2014 8:13 PM by Andy Koen
PUEBLO - The State of Colorado is throwing its support behind a plan to bring passenger rail service back to Pueblo. Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a bill next week asking Amtrak to add a spur on its Southwest Chief Line in Pueblo before heading east to La Junta.
With the bill signing, Colorado will join Kansas and New Mexico in a multi-state partnership applying for $24.5 million in grant funds from the US Department of Transportation to pay for repairs to the railroad tracks the Southwest Chief travels on.
Rod Slyhoff of the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce says those trains could bring lots of new tourists to town.
"Any time you can add another mode of transportation for people to get to you and make it their destination, it's always positive and that's what this would do," Slyhoff said.
The states need to raise about $9.3 million dollars in matching funds to get $15 million from the grant.
Pueblo County has already committed $100,00 to the matching funds. Las Animas, Prowers, Otero, and Bent Counties have also committed money. Colorado's total financial committment is is $254,000.
While the passenger trains could improve tourism in Pueblo, Slyhoff also points out that the infrastructure upgrade will also benefit local manufacturers.
"If this track isn't upgraded and maintained, you know, we can't ship goods on it either," Slyhoff said. "We would be limited in attracting new manufacturers that might ship their product out by rail."
Governor Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill Wednesday at the Union Depot, the proposed site of the Pueblo spur. He is also scheduled give a Southern Colorado State of the State speech at the Pueblo Convention Center on Thursday.