Fully restored Amtrak service in Missouri is months away

By Kurt Erickson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

JEFFERSON CITY – While other states are restoring passenger rail service to pre-pandemic levels, it might be two to three months before Amtrak's Missouri River Runner has two daily trains again.

Amtrak eliminated one of the two daily round trips on the cross-state route in March 2020 as travelers stayed home. Similar shutdowns happened across the nation.

Amtrak's Missouri River Runner makes its morning stop at the Truman Depot in Independence while a freight train sits on the second set of tracks.

With the advent of vaccines and a drop in COVID-19 cases, service is being restored elsewhere. But Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said it could be August before a second daily River Runner train begins the 283-mile trek between St. Louis and Kansas City.

"We do not yet have a date for the restoration," Magliari said.

The possibility of additional service had been in limbo until late in the Missouri Legislature's annual session.

The Republican-controlled House had sought to keep service to one round trip per day, but the Senate stripped that language out of the Missouri Department of Transportation budget in the days preceding a final vote.

That maneuver allowed MoDOT and Amtrak to begin talks to get the second train rolling.

MoDOT is waiting for Gov. Mike Parson to take action on the state budget before the agency finalizes any agreement with Amtrak, a spokeswoman said.

Although additional service may be on the horizon, the state does not expect to fix its shuttered station in Jefferson City in the coming year. Passengers currently are corralled in a temporary building near the old station, which was closed for structural problems in 2019.

The Missouri Office of Administration has conducted an engineering study of the historic Union Hotel building, which had served as the station before it was deemed unsafe.

"We have since hired a historical preservation architect who is conducting a thorough analysis to provide recommendations on how we can best preserve the building while also keeping it in operation. We are working with the city on longer term arrangements," said OA spokesman Chris Moreland.