Amtrak looks to stop in Emporia
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Amtrak has expressed interest in building a passenger train station in Emporia after conducting a passenger study, according to Casey Woods, director of Emporia Main Street and member of the Amtrak Task Force.
“We’re one of the smallest communities along some of their passenger rail tracks that doesn’t have a stop,” Woods said. “The Amtrak train actually travels through Emporia twice a day and just doesn’t stop here because we don’t have a passenger rail station.”
Since ridership has been established, they are currently in negotiations with BNSF Railway about use of the railways. According to Woods, the fear of the BNSF is interference with their delivery schedules, which would interfere with their “bottom line.”
“Now we feel like since they’re already passing through here that it would be a negligible impact, but we also have to be concerned about which rail line the stop would occur on,” Woods said. “So the next step of the process is actually planning where we would put the actual station.”
Reverend Andrew McHenry, chair of the Amtrak Task Force, said the station must be the length of one full train to allow passengers to board the train all at once without having to pull each car up to the platform.
“That usually takes up a few city blocks,” McHenry said.
Woods said it’s possible the size of the platform could require some “creative engineering” to better suit Emporia’s infrastructure. To help with this, the task force brought in Bruce Boettcher and BG Consultants.
Boettcher described BG Consultants as an architecture and engineering firm helping with the logistics of the project.
BG Consultants is looking at a few locations, but the main areas being considered are Fremont Park and the 1200 block of Whildon Street, according to Boettcher.
“Luckily, we have a group like that willing to work with us because they understand how this would impact the community very positively,” Woods said.
Both Woods and McHenry agreed an Amtrak would benefit the community greatly. Both said economic growth accompanies a passenger train in rural areas.
“People want to live close to it, that way if they just want to jump on the train, they can,” Woods. “And then business can pop up and take can advantage of the individuals riding. Restaurants, retailers – there are some communities in Missouri where antique shops have made a pretty decent living being close to passenger rails because people just hop off the train to go antiquing.”
The Amtrak would also benefit those without driver’s licenses, such as retirees, international students and teens, McHenry said. “They need a way to get around too.”
The International Department at Emporia State also supports the addition of an Amtrak because of the benefit for international students.
“In great numbers, our international students come from countries where public transportation is sophisticated and widely available,” said Gonzalo Bruce, dean of International Education. “Students depend on public transportation to commute within their own city and reach other metro areas. While Emporia offers many great advantages to international students (chief among which are affordability, friendliness and safety), public transportation is not one of them.”
McHenry encouraged students to come to the Amtrak Task Force’s monthly meetings. Those with questions or concerns can contact him at 785-220-9920 or firstname.lastname@example.org.