New Mexicans already pay a fortune to keep the Rail Runner going. Now, a state senator wants everyone to pitch in more money to keep Amtrak running here too.
There’s been talk the past few years of Amtrak pulling out of northern New Mexico as the repair bills pile up for the tracks. The senator is asking for $5 million a year to take care of the problem.
“The purpose of this is to maintain the track from Lamy all the way to Trinidad,” said Sen. Pete Campos, (D) Las Vegas. “This is one of the important forms of transportation that we have here in New Mexico, and so this is real important for the ongoing rail industry.”
Senate Bill 528 would send an additional $5 million a year toward maintenance, mainly replacing rails. Sen. Campos also has proposed a memorial. The symbolic piece of legislation outlines why Amtrak is so important to New Mexico’s tourist industry, pointing out that 120,000 people get on or off the passenger train in New Mexico every year.
“If this is not maintained and we’re not going to be using this portion of the track, passengers possibly in Albuquerque will be loaded onto buses and then transported through New Mexico possibly to Trinidad or another portion further up the line,” said the senator.
The bill hasn’t gone anywhere yet, but it will be heard in the Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee. The governor’s budget proposal calls for about $300 million for road, bridge and rail projects across the state. It does not say if any of that would go toward fixing up the Amtrak rails in New Mexico.
It already costs more than $50 million a year to pay for the Rail Runner, with most of the money coming from the state’s gas tax and from a sales tax in the counties served by the commuter train.