02/23/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/23/2021 14:49
U.S. Senator Jon Tester today escalated his aggressive push to restore Amtrak service to Montana's Hi-Line communities by introducing legislation to reinstate furloughed Amtrak employees and return complete long-distance service to routes like the Empire Builder.
'Long-distance Amtrak service creates good paying jobs on the Hi-Line, generates revenue for Montana's frontier communities, and keeps folks connected with family and friends across the country,' said Tester. 'These cuts were an unacceptable attack on rural America, and my legislation will right that wrong by reinstating Montana's furloughed Amtrak employees and restoring full long-distance service to the Empire Builder. Our state has been hit hard by the pandemic, and my bill will help put our economy back on track and get Montanans back to work.'
Senator Tester's legislation would reverse cuts imposed by Amtrak late last year, which furloughed Montana jobs and reduced service on the Empire Builder from seven days per week to three-a move that Tester vehemently opposed. Senator Tester personally secured a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the cuts last year, inviting Havre's Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, to testify about how critical long-distance rail is to rural and frontier economies in Montana and across the country.
Amtrak operates 15 long-distance routes in 47 states across the country, connecting rural and urban centers and providing inter-state mobility to underserved communities and populations. The Empire Builder Long-Distance Line includes 12 stations along the Montana Hi-Line that served 121,429 passengers who boarded or disembarked in the state in 2019.
As a member of a community serviced by the Empire Builder, Tester knows how critical Amtrak is to Montana's Hi-Line and has fought tirelessly to defend it. He recently helped secure $1 billion for Amtrak in the most recent COVID relief package, with $345 million reserved for long-distance routes including the Empire Builder. He also led the charge to restore ticket agents in Amtrak stations in Havre and Shelby, and grilled former Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson over how the railroad planned to maintain passenger service in rural America in the face of the previous Administration's proposal to cut 25 percent of the agency's funding in Fiscal Year 2020.
Read the full text of Senator Tester's legislation HERE.