"That is incredible and that is one of the best corridor performance numbers in the country," Missouri Department of Transportation Director Pete Rahn said.
State officials formally cut the ribbon on a 9,000-foot rail siding running west out of California, Mo.
"This new rail siding has actually been complete for almost a month," MoDOT multimodal operations Bruce Weiler said.
siding allows Amtrak trains to continue moving while Union Pacific
freight trains pass in the opposite direction. Missouri taxpayers spent
$5 million on the project. Uncle Sam kicked in $3 million.
"This is an early Christmas present to the state of Missouri and all Amtrak riders," Franklin County Sen. John Griesheimer said.
officials said their ridership has exploded. It started when gas prices
hit $4.00 and it set all-time records this past Thanksgiving weekend.
who've come to Amtrak when the gas prices are high have stayed with
Amtrak as the gas prices have come down because they know it's a better
way to travel," Amtrak Spokesman Marc Magliari said.
identified a dozen other rail projects, including a second bridge over
the Osage River, that could improve schedule performance for both
freight and passenger service. The state has applied for federal
stimulus funds to finance the wish list.
"The Federal Railroad
Administration said they would release it during the winter of
2009-2010," MoDOT Rail Administrator Rod Massman said. "So we're hoping
'winter' is sometime around the first of February."
officials credit Union Pacific for both its cooperation and its own
investment in the Missouri River corridor. The railroad has spent
seventeen million dollars on the corridor this year.