JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — When session begins in January, Amtrak’s twice-daily roundtrip service passenger trains in Missouri will cease to just one per day. But the Department of Transportation director said he will continue to push the legislature to appropriate additional money to increase services again.
Beginning Jan. 3, only the morning departure from Kansas City to St. Louis and the afternoon departure from St. Louis to Kansas City will be operational along the Missouri River Runner line, according to an Amtrak notice. Trains 311 and 316 are suspended.
Amtrak funding is split between the federal government and the state. Legislators only appropriated enough money to run the twice-daily round-trip trains through half of this fiscal year. The budget included $10.85 million for the rail program and $25,000 specifically for Amtrak station repairs and improvements.
Patrick McKenna, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) director, said an additional $2.5 million was needed to bump the service back up for the next six months without running into an arrearage.
“We will in our budget proposal request enough money to run the full service. That’s a decision we’ll advocate for as we have consistently over many years,” McKenna said in an interview.
As part of its fulfillment to the federal government with long-term planning, McKenna said MoDOT routinely surveys Missourians who want greater Amtrak service. He said it provides both economic and environmental benefits for the entire state — not just the communities the Amtrak line runs through.
“We hear a lot about expanding mobility options in the state. Not everyone has a car,” McKenna said. “There’s a benefit to the modality of the multi-mobile nature for people to have options. It’s good for the environment. It’s good for the economy.”
Amtrak did see a decline in passengers during the pandemic while services were shuttered or reduced, an Amtrak spokesperson said. Missouri River Runner trains provided service to 154,417 passengers in fiscal year 2019; 86,398 passengers in fiscal year 2020; and 77,179 passengers in fiscal year 2021.
“A federal law requires states to pay a portion of the cost of certain Amtrak trains. Missouri’s state budget does not include funding for continuing to operate two Missouri River Runner round-trip trains,” an Amtrak notice said.
The Missouri River Runner service brings in more than $200 million in annual economic impact for the state, MoDOT has said. It supports more than 1,250 jobs.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is the editor of The Missouri Times. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.