Dozens rally in Alpine to keep, expand Amtrak service
June 29th, 2017 under Top Stories
By JIM STREET
ALPINE – At least 60 residents of Alpine, Marfa, Marathon and Fort Davis flashed signs at passing motorists from Railroad Park at 5th Street and Holland to protest planned federal budget cuts that would eliminate all long-distance Amtrak passenger service.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) in a press release said the cuts would leave 140 million Americans without direct rail service in 220 cities and 23 states.
The crowd was larger Friday when the temperature hovered above the 100-degree mark and a bit smaller Saturday, when the mercury was about 25 degrees cooler.
A total of 63 people over the two days signed a petition calling on the government to not only cancel plans to kill Amtrak over much of America’s heartland but to increase service.
The NARP reasons that increased service would result in more passengers riding the train without the concomitant increase in costs.
Marfa Mayor Ann Marie Nafziger shared a letter she wrote to U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd asking them to support full funding for Amtrak’s national network in the 2018 budget.
“Reduction of long distance routes would result in Alpine losing all services,” she wrote. “Out here in far West Texas, where the skies are big and the distances to transportation hubs are bigger, this local stop for interstate transportation is vital.”
She wrote that Amtrak service makes it easier for tourists and business travelers to move through and across Texas.
“Passenger trains create jobs, enhance the growing tourism of the Trans Pecos and reduce environmental and roadway impacts due to personal automobile use,” Nafziger wrote. “America needs pro-transportation and pro-infrastructure thinking and planning.
“While we support a budget that is efficient, we also believe that the money spent on Amtrak provides dividends that perhaps aren’t being considered—the way it connects rural communities to the larger economy of Texas and America,” she wrote.
She said the “flyover mentality” devalues rural America.
“Urbanites rightly want us to be here preserving the scenery and natural and cultural resources that make this country so special,” she wrote. “In return, we ask respect for the amenities and services that make our lives tenable.”
Betty Gaddis Yndo, who led the development of the Murphy Street business community, now lives in San Antonio.
“Without the train, I would have no way to get out here,” she said. “I used to have a car but even then, if I was alone, I would come by train.
“I’ve been riding it for eight years since they started [Murphy Street] development,” she said.
Robert Davis of Marfa said closing something “is very permanent. Once it’s closed, it’s very hard to get it back.
“How about car trains?” he asked. “People can put their car on the train and it’s there when they get there. They have car trains from Orlando to somewhere in the Northeast.”
Liz Sibley of Alpine said Amtrak was created after railroads abandoned passenger travel in the 1950s and ‘60s. Freight was the real money maker so they let service go on their passenger trains and ridership fell.
So the government created Amtrak and most of the system has lost money ever since.
“They need a different formula,” she said. “This is our lifeline.”
The Alpine event was among similar events across the country, coordinated by the NARP.
Gwynne Jamieson of the Alpine Downtown Association Depot Committee said the next step is a letter-writing campaign in each town represented in the Alpine rally.
“We’re making plans for ‘Save Amtrak’ letter-writing parties in local towns in the months ahead,” she said. “We’re inviting Senators Cruz and Cornyn and Rep. Hurd to Alpine, plus targeting special interest groups like Sul Ross college students and veterans to speak up.”
She also plans to provide storefronts with posters and she might sponsor a seminar on how to launch and manage an “activist” campaign.
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