Henley: Amtrak stop looks positive
By STEPHANIE HARRIS-SMITH
Published: Friday, October 17, 2008 1:38 PM CDT
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Hope Star Writer
Hope may soon be part of the Amtrak Texas Eagle’s record breaking growth among long distance trains for fiscal 2008.
Plans to have the Amtrak make a stop in Hope are still in the works and all is positive, according to Hope Parks and Tourism Secretary Paul Henley.
The Texas Eagle route connects Chicago and San Antonio, making stops across Arkansas and would also be the train to pick up Hope travelers. It experienced the fastest growth among long-distance trains by up to 15.2 percent, according to the National Railroad Passenger Corp. The train carries a total of 251,518 passengers, according to Henley.
Henley informed the Parks and Tourism commission earlier this week of the details on a recent Amtrak meeting he attended in New Orleans.
“I was able to talk directly to the right person with Union Pacific, and Union Pacific is who will ultimately make the decision on our Amtrak stop because they own the property. He directed me to get the plans and the specifications,” Henley said.
The response was very positive according to Henley, so positive in fact, that Henley was able to go ahead with ordering Amtrak signage for the area.
“The number one intent is to have the tourists that go by on the train to actually get off in Hope and see the Clinton attractions and other things they may have interest in. That was our number one goal, but the other effect, of providing additional means of transportation for our local folks, is even more important,” Henley said.
Henley said he has seen a huge display of interest among the citizens of Hope.
“Since we got the information out that there was interest in having Amtrak stop in Hope, I have had more people express excitement that we are going to have a stop, because of what it is going to mean to their families. Many of them are older people who can’t drive anymore and they want to see their kids,” he said.
He said they can get on the train in Hope and go to Little Rock or Dallas, or their parents can get on in Dallas and come to Hope,” he said.
Henley said it is an exciting time to be in the midst of plans with Amtrak due to the high cost of other means of travel. Henley said his sister recently made the trip from Texarkana to Dallas for $26.
Plans for a loading platform have been completed. The platform is 612 feet long and would go from Elm Street to Walnut Street, according to Henley.
“We have showed those plans to the tourism commission yesterday and we will, in turn forward, those plans to Amtrak and they will in turn forward them to Union Pacific,” Henley said.
Henley said he was surprised to find out at the meeting that a loading platform had been in place at one time and taken up when Union Pacific purchased the track from Missouri Pacific.
“We would just be replacing one that was there before,” he added.
Henley said the downside to Amtrak travel is the fact that they are not known to be on schedule due to the fact that freight trains have priority over passenger trains.
“The key is to know that on the front end, but you will get there and it will cost you a lot less than going by car or other ways. Most folks interested are not in a hurry, they will just be visiting someone. They are not going for a business trip,” he said.
Henley said once Amtrak approves the loading platform plans, construction time should be relatively short.