It took two decades to get it done; but, the return of passenger rail service to Hope via Amtrak was formally honored by the president of the national railway in recent ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
It took two decades to get it done; but, the return of passenger rail service to Hope via Amtrak was formally honored by the president of the national railway in recent ceremonies in Washington, D.C. The 15 members of the Hope Platform Committee were recognized by Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman with the 2013 President's Service and Safety Award – Champion of the Rails. “The 2013 President's Service and Safety Award has become a proud tradition at Amtrak, one where we show our appreciation for the extraordinary accomplishments of our 148 award recipients who went above and beyond the call of duty to accomplish our goals,” Kimberly Woods, Amtrak spokesperson said. The Hope contingent was recognized for bringing a unique aspect to the establishment of the Amtrak passenger stop in Hope with the development of a revolutionary platform design. Committee members include Rodney Bobo, Hope City Manager Catherine Cook, Jeff Cook, Hope Parks Director Paul Henley, Dolly Henley, Hope Vice Mayor Steve Montgomery, former State Representative David “Bubba” Powers, former Congressman Mike Ross, Henry Struckman, Kathy Struckman, State Senator Larry Teague, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope Chancellor Chris Thomason, Hope businessman John Watkins, and Dr. Bill Pollard. “Over 20 years, the estimated cost of the accessible platform rose from $25,000 to almost a quarter of a million dollars due to new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, and an innovative design that directs drainage away from the tracks,” Woods said. The design incorporated precast concrete sections into an interlocking series that runs the length of the passenger boarding area at the Hope Visitor and Information Center Depot in downtown Hope. Amtrak recognized the unique nature of the design as a model for future platforms elsewhere. “Funding was met through a partnership between the city, Amtrak and state agencies; work was also closely coordinated with track owner Union-Pacific Railroad,” Woods said.”The platform is rather unique in that its concrete face is stamped with 'Hope, a Slice of the Good Life,' the city catchphrase and a reference to its famous watermelons.” The project originally arose after the election of Hope native and former Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton as President of the United States, and city officials approached Amtrak about the possibility of a passenger rail stop in 1993 with the advent of the Texas Eagle. “Over the next two decades, the city prevailed through a variety of challenges ranging from negotiations with Union-Pacific Railroad to financing for platform construction,” Woods said. The platform committee, headed by Paul Henley, joined forces with the Texas Eagle Marketing and Performance Organization, from Texas, and pursued the project, so that Hope is now a regularly scheduled stop for the Texas Eagle. “With the addition of Hope, the customer base for the Texas Eagle has grown and positively impacted route revenue while also expanding the Amtrak brand in Arkansas,” Woods said. “For the tenacity and patience to keep working toward a sound transportation goal, we congratulate the Hope Platform Committee on winning the PSSA for Champion of the Rails.”