TOPEKA — Proponents of expanded passenger train travel in Kansas urged lawmakers Wednesday to support such expansion and seek federal money to help.
Neighboring states have received several million dollars to develop or improve passenger rail travel in the past year, said Mark Corriston, Kansas vice president of the Northern Flyer Alliance.
"These are not distant developments in Florida or California or some other place where we are always hearing about big developments," he told the Senate Transportation Committee.
States such as Missouri and Ohio were just a little more prepared and were able to tap into federal recovery investment dollars, he said.
Corriston's group is pushing for the creation of passenger rail service that would connect Fort Worth to Kansas City, Mo., through Wichita.
Senate Bill 409 would allow the state Department of Transportation to work with groups along the proposed route. It also would allow Kansas to enter into agreements with Amtrak to implement the service.
"This is truly a vision for the future," Corriston said.
Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, said expanding rail service would be a positive thing for Kansas. He noted that Amtrak service now runs through Newton but does not continue south.
Other supporters of expanded passenger rail travel touted its environmental benefits and the travel options it offers those with vision problems.
Mark Coates, legislative chair for the Kansas Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, said it is difficult to get around the state with the current system.
"We need to make public transportation more convenient and more feasible mode of transportation," Coates said.
Chris Cardinal, legislative coordinator for the Sierra Club, said "passenger rail is vital to overall health of our economy."
Rail travel is more efficient, and expanded passenger rail service would help decrease congestion in airports and on the roads, he said.
The committee took no action Wednesday.