Amtrak passenger trains could be on their way to the southern Ozarks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Transportation is exploring the option of adding an Amtrak station to the Queen City. 

MoDOT is seeking $500,000 from the Federal Administrator’s Corridor ID Program to assess the feasibility of including Amtrak passenger trains in the future.

Springfield has not seen passenger trains since 1967, when the Frisco Meteor train discontinued its operations. The addition of new rails would connect riders to Kansas City, Branson and the rest of Amtrak services across the nation. 

Despite being one of the largest metro areas in the U.S., Springfield does not have an Amtrak network. The nearest Amtrak rail lines are over 100 miles away in Sedalia, Warrensburg and Kansas City.

Provided the project comes to fruition, commuters would use BNSF Railway freight lines to travel between Kansas City and Springfield, making stops at Lamar and Ash Grove.

In the 1990s, the state explored the possibility of adding Amtrak services from St. Louis to Springfield, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. In 2007, a MoDOT and Amtrak study looked into the addition of a service linking Springfield to St. Louis, Lebanon, Rolla, and Sullivan. 

The final evaluation reports showed that millions of dollars would be necessary to enhance the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific freight lines. Both entities agreed that passenger revenue would not justify the new services.

If new studies show enough feasibility to bring Amtrak to Springfield, money is already in place. Missouri has included $76 million in federal funding, with an additional $38 million in state funding, for the 2025 fiscal year budget request. The funds could help with improvements to road crossings and signals, construction of stations, the purchase of locomotives and cars, and tracks. 

In three other applications, MoDOT submitted requests for: Extension of tracks from Chicago to Quincy, Illinois and into Missouri via Hannibal. Another application discussed the possibility of improving existing corridors in St. Louis and Kansas City, with the addition of new stops and a third round-trip option. 

A new corridor that spans from Kansas City to St. Joseph is part of the last proposal. Similar to Springfield, Amtrak is not present in St. Joseph.

MoDOT’s application letter mentioned a potential partnership with passenger rail services in Iowa and Minnesota, which could result in a Minneapolis-Des Moines-Kansas City corridor in the future.

In a Federal Railroad Administration news release published in December 2022, the FRA said while it evaluates corridor proposals; the agency plans to target projects that bring tangible public benefits and special emphasis which will be paid to projects that benefit rural and underserved communities.

MoDOT and Amtrak have not disclosed a timeline for when railways could be constructed or completed in the Ozarks.

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