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Amtrak says Southwest Chief's New Mexico passenger train routes to remain ending uncertainty

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SANTA FE, New Mexico — Amtrak will stick with its existing New Mexico route of the Southwest Chief passenger train, according to the company.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told the Santa Fe New Mexican (http://goo.gl/jwurSF ) last week that the Southwest Chief will continue to make stops in New Mexico towns of Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy and Albuquerque.

The announcement ends more than two years of fear and uncertainty in Northern New Mexico's smaller communities about whether Amtrak would alter the route.

The Southwest Chief travels between Chicago and Los Angeles, but part of the current route was in jeopardy because of questions about maintenance and upgrades of track.

Colorado and Kansas moved aggressively last year to secure a federal grant and to allocate money for repairs on their sections of the Southwest Chief tracks.

New Mexico's hold on its section of the route was much more tenuous. Gov. Susana Martinez in 2014 authorized $150,000 for a study of the Southwest Chief's costs and benefits. Martinez was less willing than governors in Colorado and Kansas to commit to the project because she said Amtrak historically was the beneficiary of federal subsidies.

But now, even without New Mexico obtaining a grant or allocating funding directly for the Southwest Chief line, Amtrak is convinced that all three states have a sound plan in place for upkeep of the tracks.

Just as important, a Jan. 1, 2016, deadline for funding the project has been lifted, Magliari said.

"We are making progress. There is no imminent cutoff date. . We do not want to move this train to another route," he said.

Magliari and state Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos, said the new plan contains no timetable because all the states now have a strategy to cover costs on their part of the route.

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