Traveling By Rail

By Tom Hale | September 28, 2010

Gasoline prices across the U.S. have dropped in recent weeks – prices in many places have slid well below $3 a gallon. Hopefully that trend will continue.

Pump prices, which reached above $4 a gallon this summer, led many motorists to travel less. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 53.2 billion fewer miles from November 2007 to June 2008 – a 4.7-percent decrease when compared with the same period a year earlier.

Motorists have also sought other forms of transportation, including traveling by rail. More people are opting for Amtrak trains twice daily between Kansas City and St. Louis, with ridership rising by more than 30 percent to total 151,690 for the 12 months ending Sept. 30.

Amtrak operates Trains 311, 313, 314, and 316 under a contract with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and with the support of the Missouri Rail Passenger Advisory Committee, a grass-roots group representing the communities along the 283-mile corridor.

“While we aren’t at the level of service we want to be, we are making great strides toward improving rail passenger service in Missouri,” says MoDOT’s MultiModal Operations Director Brian Weiler. “This surge in passengers in an indicator that Missourians are seeking out different travel options.”

Earlier this year, the Missouri Legislature and Gov. Matt Blunt approved $5 million to increase track capacity on the route owned by Union Pacific Railroad. And recently the Federal Railroad Administration announced the award of a $3.3-million grant to MoDOT to help eliminate two existing 20-mile gaps between passing tracks. According to MoDOT, work is expected to begin next year.