Federal lawmakers should get behind Amtrak push.
The state of Kansas won't pitch in financially to keep passenger train service chugging through western Kansas.
Faced with the prospect of losing Amtrak through Garden City along with other parts of Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, officials from affected communities have looked for assistance from their state and federal governments.
Amtrak wanted those states to spend a total of $100 million in the next decade to improve tracks between Hutchinson and Garden City that are in such poor condition the train has to slow down on its daily route between Chicago and Los Angeles.
News that Kansas wouldn't devote dollars to the track work wasn't much of a surprise, considering policymakers in Topeka often have little interest in investment in this part of the state. Colorado and New Mexico state governments also appeared reluctant to fund any rail work.
Kansas Department of Transportation representatives did at least say they're working with Amtrak and federal authorities on other ways to save the current route. Without funding sources identified by 2014, Amtrak would send the daily passenger train south of Newton and on through Texas to New Mexico.
That would be unfortunate in rural western Kansas, which already has transportation challenges. When it comes to the Amtrak route, U.S. senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, along with U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, should acknowledge how the train offers affordable transportation that helps many people connect to other destinations.
Unfortunately, ultraconservative Republicans haven't shown much interest in Amtrak-related funding. They should know that this issue isn't so much about support for the national passenger railroad system, but rather the potential loss to communities along the Southwest Chief route, Garden City included.
In 2011, the Garden City depot reportedly served more than 7,500 passengers. Local Amtrak ridership has been on the rise in recent years, no doubt due to the affordability and convenience for local and area residents headed to destinations east and west.
Losing the service would hurt. With hopes of state funding dashed, federal lawmakers should acknowledge rural western Kansas' need for viable transportation options, and push for funding to maintain the Southwest Chief route.