WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita City Council voted on a resolution Tuesday supporting the extension of Amtrak service. The vote was 7-0. Amtrak hasn’t had service in the city since 1979.
The proposal would extend the Heartland Flyer from its current Oklahoma City service into Wichita and Newton, connecting passengers to the current Southwest Chief.
“We are probably the closest we have been to seeing the return of Amtrak,” said council member Cindy Claycomb.
Claycomb added that rail service is important for attracting young people and cited Wichita State University as an example.
Meanwhile, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed the Senate and will move to the House, which could help Amrak’s extend rail service.
Mayor Brandon Whipple says this vote sends a strong message to our legislative leaders in Washington.
“We would be appreciative to be in the further plans to restore rail service here to Wichita, which would connect us down the corridor, in which Wichita State has targeted to attract and retain young talent but also to Texas, which I believe is a top 15 economy.”
The addition of Amtrak could mean millions of dollars a year for Wichita. The city council has made it clear that they want Amtrak in the Air Capital.
With the federal infrastructure bill passing in the Senate, new hope is riding in for train travel in Wichita.
“Amtrak has proposed that, they in the infrastructure bill that if they receive the funding, they will pay for those extensions. Wichita being one of them,” said Claycomb.
Chad Stafford, the president of Occidental Management which owns Union Station, said the Wichita stop should be on the top of the list.
“The department of Kansas Department of Transportation has been keeping the pedal to the metal so to speak, that we are anxiously awaiting an opportunity to re-engage with an Amtrak stop here so my hope is that that is kept in the forefront of minds,” said Stafford.
Mayor Whipple says the stop is expected to bring about $64.8 million to Wichita each year and help retain young talent.
“Wichita State University offers in-state tuition right down that southern corridor that this train will be complimenting which will allow families and also potential students to make the way back and forth to Wichita,” said Mayor Whipple.
Stafford said once approved it could be 18 months to two years before the city sees an Amtrak train coming through.
Kansas Senators Roger Marshall and Jerry Moran voted no on the infrastructure bill. Sen. Moran had been part of initial negotiations shaping the package.
Meanwhile, Amtrak released a statement on infrastructure bill passing.
The Senate’s passage of the Infrastructure Bill represents more than just this country’s greatest level of investment in Amtrak and infrastructure in the past 50 years. It also highlights America’s commitment to updating the rail network and improving the passenger experience for years to come.
Amtrak is ready to rebuild core infrastructure, replace equipment and, with the FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) and state partners, bring more Amtrak service to more people across the nation, creating thousands of new jobs and reducing America’s carbon footprint.
Separately, Congress needs to ensure that Amtrak gets the on-time performance and preference from our host railroads that the law requires so we can achieve the growth in reliable service that our nation needs.”Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia