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After everything else our city has gone through this year, now we don't have an operational Amtrak station.

The station, housed in the historic Union Hotel, has been closed for about a month due to structural problems. City officials are scrambling to come up with a temporary station where passengers can wait out of the wet, soon-to-be-freezing weather.

If you've never been in it, the station itself exudes the historic romance connected to the golden age of railroads.

No estimate has been determined for fixing the problems. A preliminary assessment determined it needed to be closed as a precautionary measure to assure the safety of volunteers and visitors. A more thorough assessment is being planned.

The building is owned by the state Office of Administration and managed in cooperation with Department of Natural Resources and Jefferson City.

Jefferson City Operations Division Director Britt Smith said officials have been looking at if other facilities in the area could handle the need, if they should go to a different location or if they could bring in a temporary trailer at the current site.

"We want to try and make accommodations better to make sure our guests feel welcome," Smith said. "There's a lot of moving pieces to make this come together. A facility has to be handicap accessible, and it has to have bathrooms. It's not as easy as you might think."

We commend them for seeking a quick solution to the problem.

We also hope the city and state can work toward a longer-term goal of repairing the historic Union Hotel.

One key to the future of Amtrak is going to be continuing toward self-sufficiency. The government-run operation started in 1971. Ridership has doubled since then, but the government's goal of making it self-sufficient, so far, has been elusive.

Also, the ridership trend recently reversed, as the Washington Post reported that chronic delays are up and ridership is down.

We hope Amtrak continues, but at some point, our broke federal government likely will look to fiscally uncouple the train service.

News Tribune

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