Bill to expand rail service in Kansas advances

TOPEKA — A measure that would help expand passenger rail service in Kansas is moving to the next station.

On Tuesday, the Senate gave preliminary approval to Senate Bill 409 which 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.

"It is a long-range thing; we are not going to be riding this train for a while but it will move us in the right direction," Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, told the chamber.

The transportation department plans to release a feasibility study within a month showing how much an expansion of rail service in Kansas would cost.

Groups such as the Northern Flyer Alliance have been advocating for passenger rail service that would connect Kansas City, Wichita and Dallas-Fort Worth. Current passenger rail service stops in Newton.

Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, warned that while people in Kansas are enthusiastic about returning passenger rail to the state, groups in other states have considered bypassing Kansas.

"This would be a terrible thing, a detriment to the state," she said.

The measure passed on a voice vote and the Senate will likely hold a final vote on the bill today.

The measure would then go to the House for consideration.