Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Small towns in New Mexico will dry up if Amtrak goes ...

Dan Frocsh reports today for the New York Times from Lamy, New Mexico, population 218, on the proposed closure of the stretch of Amtrak that serves this community and several others in Arizona, New Mexico, and southeastern Colorado on the Southwest Chief route between Los Angeles and Chicago.  Frosch explains that Amtrak, which has operated the route since 1971, is asking the states of Colorado, Kansas, and New Mexico to contribute $40 million over two decades to cover the cost of track upgrades and maintenance.  Amtrak says the contributions are necessary to keep the route viable.  Many state officials, however, are balking.  The picture Frosch paints is one that suggests Lamy is nearly dead already.  Frosch writes:
Gone are the days when well-dressed families en route to Los Angeles or Chicago would peer out at Lamy from their seats in dome cars. 
The town’s lone restaurant and saloon has been transformed into a railroad museum. A small plaque marks where El Ortiz Hotel once stood. And cartoonish signboards of Native Americans still stare out from the front of an out-of-service dining car — stage props of sorts, from a time long past. But the tableaus of badlands and desert, the lonesome stretches of railroad, are still there.
Local officials are putting pressure on state lawmakers to intervene.  Frosh quotes Jim Maldonado, chair of the Colfax County Board of Commissioners:
We need this train here.  … Losing it would be devastating for our county.  Things have just been dying out here for years.
The train stops in the City of Raton, population 6,685, in Colfax County where it transports thousands of Boy Scouts coming and going for retreats. 

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