Southwest Chief

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief pulls into the Lamy station in January 2014. Clyde Mueller/The New Mexican

Amtrak and the Kansas City Terminal Railway say they have reached a tentative agreement about which party is responsible for paying for more than $30 million in safety upgrades, cooling the latest dispute that threatened the Southwest Chief passenger service in New Mexico.

A month ago, an Amtrak executive testified before Congress that the funding disagreement could put the Southwest Chief at risk if Amtrak was forced to pay for installation of safety technology along tracks that run through Kansas City. Now, with an accord, the Southwest Chief line appears secure again, welcome news for the Northern New Mexico cities that draw business and visitors from the route.

The Southwest Chief stops in Kansas City, Mo., as part of its 42-hour, 2,220-mile daily route between Chicago and Los Angeles. The route also includes stops in New Mexico at Raton, Las Vegas, Lamy, Albuquerque and Gallup.

Representatives of Amtrak and the Kansas City Terminal Railway told The New Mexican on Tuesday that a deal for safety upgrades has been reached through arbitration. Neither party would disclose the terms or how much each would pay.

Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak, said in a statement, “We are pleased that an agreement in principle has been reached among the involved parties.”

He said he hoped a deal would soon be in place for installation of safety equipment and ongoing maintenance of track near the Kansas City Terminal area.

Brad Peek, general manager of the Kansas City Terminal Railway, said he concurred with Amtrak’s statement.

A federal law approved in 2008 requires that certain railroads install safety technology, called Positive Train Control, that regulatory officials say can prevent derailments. Many railroads are struggling to meet the Dec. 31 deadline to install the equipment.

Amtrak is a federally subsided rail service that owns few of the tracks along its routes, such as the Southwest Chief.

The law mandates the technology be installed on inner-city passenger railroads as well as larger freight railroads.

The Kansas City Terminal Railway had said that, because the Southwest Chief’s passenger service along its route triggered the federal requirement for safety upgrades, Amtrak should pay for the technology’s installation. Amtrak disagreed because it doesn’t own the tracks. It had threatened to terminate or reroute Southwest Chief service all together.

Justin Horwath can be reached at 986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.