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Future of rail in Missouri could depend on Washington

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Whether you might take the train for holiday travel in the future might well depend on a $200-million request for federal funds. Missouri Transportation Director Pete Rahn says people are being drawn to rail travel for reasons other than saving money on fuel, local media report.

"And
I think one of the issues is that as airports and security have made flying
just more of a hassle, I think it makes rail traffic more desirable," Rahn
says.

Amtrak,
though, hasn’t been any more desirable in Missouri. Its slow speeds and
uncertain schedule with spotty on-time performance has turned off many
Missourians who might well be inclined to take the train.

That
is, until now. MoDOT has been touting the vastly improved on-time performance
of Amtrak between Kansas City and St. Louis due to better cooperation among
Union Pacific, Amtrak and MoDOT. Also improvements, such as a new 9,000-foot
rail spur in mid-Missouri at California, have helped negotiate freight and
passenger rail traffic.

Rahn
says even greater improvements must be made to make Amtrak a truly desirable
transportation option. Other bottlenecks remain between Kansas City and
Jefferson City. A new rail bridge is needed over the Osage River east of
Jefferson City to allow more rail traffic. Missouri has applied for slightly
more than $201.3 million to completely upgrade the railway, preparing it for
the possibility of high-speed rail. MoDOT proposes to use the money to fund 11
rail projects. Competition for the money is expected to be fierce.

"Our
application to the Federal Railroad Administration for high-speed rail grants
is in Washington. We’re hoping to hear by the middle of January," says Rahn. "And
we have a request for funding those improvements. So, I’m hopeful."

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