Supporters of train travel visit Jefferson City to push for expanding services

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – There are new hopes among supporters of train travel for a resurgence in rail service for St. Louis.

About two dozen supporters took their message to the Missouri Capitol Thursday with an unexpected boost from the President of the United States.

They rode a bus equipped with train bells and horns. They rallied at the Capitol steps, met with state reps and a MoDOT official, and then rode back on Amtrak.

“This train was nearly sold out,” said Rich Eichhorst, American Association of Railroaders, just after getting off of the train in Kirkwood. “82% of Americans want passenger trains.”

“It’s a good day to get out on a train,” said Barbara Altman of Arnold, who also made the trip.

“It’s very relaxing. It’s comfortable. It’s clean,” said Frank Mercadante of St. Louis.

“Our new slogan: you run them, we’ll ride them,” Eichorst said.

Since the pandemic hit, Amtrak service from St. Louis to Kansas City has been cut in half from two daily round trips to one.

Ridership plunged about 60%, Eichhorst said, from an average of more than 400 passengers a day to fewer than 200.

Yet, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a feeling or momentum behind the push to really get Amtrak rolling through St. Louis again. The biggest push may be coming from the White House.

President Biden’s new $2 trillion infrastructure plan includes $80 billion for Amtrak upgrades and expansion. That could mean restored and even expanded service from both Chicago and Kansas City to and from St. Louis, according to an Amtrak spokesman, should state lawmakers approve.

“President Biden has the nickname ‘Amtrak Joe’ because in his years as a senator, from Wilmington (DE) to Washington, he was back and forth every day on Amtrak,” Eichhorst said.

He hopes the president bolsters their message in meetings with state reps and a MoDOT official today … as they craft a new state budget.

For instance, Amtrak cuts had hurt tourism, crippling winery trips to Hermann, rail supporters said. You can no longer get there and back on the train in the same day.

“It’s bringing in business to the whole state of Missouri. I wish they could kind of think about that,” Mercadante said.

With ridership rising and COVID-19 falling, they said it’s time to get rolling.

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