City leaders in D.C. to talk about funding and Amtrak

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Mayor Jeff Longwell and city council members are in Washington D.C. part of this week to talk about federal funding and the possibility Amtrak could once again stop in Wichita.

“Good meeting this morning with the Amtrak people. We kind of got the current lay of the land and this has been going on for a while,” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Pete Meitzner, who joined the group.

Meitzner has studied the possibility while he was on the city commission.

“I’m not sure we’re at the finish line, but we’re kind of getting our hands around the final cost estimates to deliver the service kind of connecting again Dallas up through Oklahoma City to Wichita to Newton,” said Meitzner from D.C.

The Amtrak Heartland Flyer connects Dallas-Fort Worth with Oklahoma City. City and county leaders say they talked with the lead government affair specialist with Amtrak.

“This is something people in Wichita care about. They’re always talking about it, always asking me what’s next, when is Amtrak coming?” said James Clendenin, Wichita City Council member. “So it’s important for us, the city and the county to be here working together to make sure we’re able to bring Amtrak service to the county.”

Meitzner says a critical component to getting Amtrak in Wichita again is finding a way to get a feasibility study done on the route from Newton to Wichita to Oklahoma City.

“We’ve been working on this in discussions for a long time,” said Meitzner. “And everybody thought maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that?  But now we think we’ve got a commitment to get a final cost estimate which would be a good bonus.”

Burlington Northern Santa Fe owns the track between Wichita and Oklahoma City that would be used by Amtrak. The railroad would have to be in on a study to see if Amtrak would make sense on the Wichita to Oklahoma City part of the track.

“We ship a lot of things from Wichita. We make a lot things, we have really good commerce in Wichita. It’s strong,” said Meitzner. “So (passenger rail service) it’s just one more positive step for retaining and attracting talent and put our state in the game. They (Amtrak) reminded us today there are only five major cities not connected with Amtrak and Wichita is one of those. Amtrak told us Wichita is at the top of the list. They are interested.”

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