ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - While the railroad has been a significant part of Albuquerque's history for decades, it may not be around for much longer.
Representatives of Amtrak and the BNSF Railway Co. met with leaders from New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas on Tuesday to try and figure out how to keep the daily Southwest Chief train between Chicago and Los Angeles on its current, longtime route.
That train stops in Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy and Albuquerque on its way west and return to Chicago.
Amtrak officials, however, estimate it will cost $100 million to fix or replace the tracks along the route, while another $10 million a year is necessary to maintain the tracks.
"We need to have a good idea that this is all going to come together by 2014," said Amtrak spokesperson Marc Magliari. "Because by 2016 the current agreement we have where BNSF Railway maintains this goes away and the entire cost of this falls on Amtrak."
If the tracks are not fixed, the Southwest Chief could come in across eastern New Mexico to Belen instead of Albuquerque before heading on to Gallup.
Riders of the route who stopped in Albuquerque on Thursday couldn't believe the news.
"I like to stop here," said Sandy Byne, who has taken the route for seven years. "You have some time off and you can look at the little shops."
Train enthusiast Bill Luxford said he was upset by the possibility of rerouting the train. He said he wants as many people to know about the potential changes as possible.
"It's not something they don't need to fluff off because we lost the Alvarado because of people not caring until it was too late," Luxford said referring to the mission-style hotel that stood trackside in downtown Albuquerque from the early 1900s until its demolition in 1970.
Amtrak said it will do all it can to keep the historic scenic route as is.
The state is trying to get out of any responsibility of taking over the track from Lamy to the Colorado border. New Mexico bought that track while former Gov. Bill Richardson was in office in hopes that one day it might be part of a high-speed route from El Paso to Denver
Even though the state paid the money, the contract was not finalized, so current Gov. Susana Martinez's office believes it can back out of that deal.
The New Mexico Department of Transportation owns the 96.5 miles of railroad between Belen and Santa Fe, which accommodate the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter trains.
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