An article in the Kansas City Star last week caught my attention. While an increasing number of passengers are boarding Amtrak trains across the country, the number of rail passengers in Missouri is actually declining. According to people who spoke to reporter Brad Cooper, the reason that Missouri is losing rail passengers (more than 20,000 since 2005) is that nearly 40 percent of the trains ran at least a half hour late, and some ran two hours late.
A study of the problem by MoDOT last year cited traffic jam-ups with freight trains and deteriorating infrastructure along the route as the reasons for many of the chronic delays. The department initially recommended a $43 million fix, but has actually proposed a much more modest program. Even the smaller program, though, faces substantial opposition in the public transportation-averse Missouri General Assembly.
With our new intermodal transportation station set to open this year, it would be timely for Amtrak and MoDOT to get the problem fixed. Fortunately, there is also some federal money available for inter-city rail lines. I plan to ask our lobbyists in Washington, D.C., to support MoDOT’s request there.