GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — Congress is voting on hundreds of amendments to the appropriations bill. Congressman Roger Marshall recently voted for an amendment that could have drastically changed how rural Kansans travel.
“About once a month it seems like we’re using [Amtrak],” said Garden City resident Bob Tempel.
Several southwest Kansas cities are serviced by Amtrak every day. For Tempel, it’s how he regularly sees his daughter away at college.
“My daughter comes back and forth sometimes from Lawrence, and then we’re going out there. From a safety standpoint, we like that as well, so we’re not on the road as many hours.”
Last week the House voted on an amendment that would cut more than $1 billion of Amtrak’s funding.
The amendment did not pass, but Marshall, who represents Kansas’s most rural district, voted for it.
He said in a statement, “As long as we are subsidizing private entities like Amrtak (sic), we must be asking tough questions about how they are improving services, increasing competitiveness, and how they would stem the tide of declining ridership. We cannot just subsidize to maintain the status quo.
Marshall did vote to keep subsidies for regional airports. Garden City Manager Matt Allen says the region depends on both subsidies.
“They are critically important to our economy,” said Allen, “and we’re pleased to see that the House voted to continue those programs when they considered the transportation budget.”
Allen says any future cuts to Amtrak would be devastating.
“It would mean the elimination of the Southwest Chief. It’s a long-distance rail that connects, that terminates in both Chicago and Los Angeles and connects rural America across half the continent.”
The Southwest Chief line is one of few travel options left for the region.
There are currently no commercial flights in or out of Dodge City and Liberal for the foreseeable future because of Pen Air’s bankruptcy.
KSN reached out to Garden City’s airport to see if demand has increased since those flights stopped on Sunday, but they have not seen a significant change in ridership yet.