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WIBW News Radio

Kansas U.S. Senator Jerry Moran questioned Joseph Gruters, who has been nominated to serve on the Amtrak Board of Directors, during Wednesday morning’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing. He asked him about Amtrak’s cooperation with Congress when it comes to TIGER grants to upgrade the rail on which the Southwest Chief Amtrak route runs.

“It’s been a cooperative effort with Amtrak and it has involved communities in my state such as Garden City and Dodge City,” Moran said. “We’ve now been successful in acquiring three TIGER grants, beginning in 2014, and the most recent one was just announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So we have been working with the railroad and Amtrak to improve the maintenance of those rail lines and improving therefore the quality of Amtrak service. Unfortunately, and disturbingly to me, Amtrak administration and leadership has announced they will not complete their part of the bargain on the last TIGER grant.”

Moran suggested there could be a philosophical or a practical discussion about the value of long-term rail service through Amtrak in this country, he does not believe there can be any discussion about the importance of keeping one’s word. He also questioned the wisdom of Amtrak’s announced move to get rid of a ticket agent in Topeka.

“This past week Amtrak announced that they were eliminating the only position in Topeka, the ticket agent, one employee of Amtrak, the only person that works there, that position is being eliminated. I would ask your cooperation in working with me now before your confirmation and if you become a member of the board to pursue this additional reduction in service. I’ve been involved in trying to help save the postal service and it seems to me too often that we have a circumstance in which we reduce the service, expecting then there to be better days. You cannot reduce service and expect customers to arrive at your doors, and Amtrak is demonstrating that in my view in both instances.”

Amtrak also said it would eliminate its ticket agent in Garden City.

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