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U.S. Senator in town - Amtrak chief, Heinrich visit Vegas

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By Lupita Gonzales

An enthusiastic crowd ranging from 60 to 80 individuals gathered at the AMTRAK Station in Las Vegas Saturday to greet Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., who has expressed his support for continuation of the railroad line which includes Las Vegas and Raton.

Continuation of the passenger train routes that hook up with major western and midwestern and eastern cities has been under study for several months, as the three states — New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas — which are affected by the route that reaches Las Vegas and Raton, need to agree on necessary repairs of the rails.

Accompanying Heinrich were the Joseph Boardman, CEO of Amtrak, and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway chairman, Matt Rose. BNSF currently owns the line.

New Mexico Cabinet Secretary Tom Church of the Department of Transportation and a host of local dignitaries were on hand to greet the senator and other officials.

The train was to leave La Junta, Colo., at 9 a.m., stopping in Trinidad, then Raton and Springer. It originally had been set to arrive in Las Vegas around 4:30 p.m., but a number of delays along the route caused the train to arrive locally at about 6:30.

Nevertheless, the enthusiasm of the local supporters did not flag, and they began clapping as the train approached.

Amtrak Conductor, Barnard Paul, who, in his words, orchestrates “movement of the train and deals with passenger issues” was on hand for the train’s arrival.

Upon the arrival of the train, Heinrich greeted the local supporters and said, “Our delegation in Washington understands how important this train is to the community, and are doing everything in their power to see that the workings are funded.”

He added that the Kansas and Colorado delegations are allies in the process.

Among the local dignitaries were Mayor Alfonso Ortiz, Councilmen Vince Howell and Joey Herrera and Elmer Martinez, interim city manager, and Sen. Phil Griego (D-Santa Fe.) Ortiz addressed the gathering, highlighting the economic benefits that Amtrak brings to the area, as well as the corresponding devastation that might occur if Amtrak were to bypass Las Vegas and Raton as part of its New Mexico circuit.

Ortiz addressed the group, welcoming the dignitaries and local community attendees. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are the key to this community.”

Martinez added, ”The future looks bright for the community.” Boardman said, “We believe in what we’re doing here.”

Ortiz discussed the projected costs, and that the local share would be approximately $4 million over a 10-year period, but, he emphasized, “If this service were closed down, it would be almost impossible to recreate what we now have here.”

After further discussion, Martinez said, “People really need this service, every day, seven days weekly. It’s important to our community.”