Tester Stresses Importance Of Rail Service
As part of his continued effort to preserve and expand commuter rail access in Montana, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., last week highlighted the critical importance of Amtrak passenger rail to Montanaâ€™s economy in a Commerce Committee hearing on President Bidenâ€™s nominees for the Amtrak board of directors.
Tester expressed his frustration that none of the nominees to the board were from the western United States, with four from the East Coast and the fifth from the Midwest. He also expressed his concerns that none of those nominated to the positions had ever visited Montana to gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Western states.
â€śThe Empire Builder that serves Montana is so critically important to our state and is under attack almost every single day by somebody who doesnâ€™t want that service to be thereâ€¦The bottom line is if we lose Amtrak in Montana, it is an incredible hit,â€ť Tester said. â€śIf we can make our train travel as convenient as it is in other countries, I think it can be a tremendous economic developer in our country.â€ť
Tester was instrumental in restoring full, daily service to the Empire Builder this past May. And Testerâ€™s bill reinstating furloughed Amtrak employees and rolling back previous service reductions to the Empire Builder route was signed into law as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Tester was the only member of Montanaâ€™s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill.
Tester personally secured a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Amtrak cuts in 2020, inviting Havreâ€™s Paul Tuss, executive director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, to testify on the importance of long-distance rail to rural and frontier economies in Montana and across the country.
Tester was also the only member of the Montana delegation to vote for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included guidance and funding for the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study to assess and support the restoration of discontinued essential long-distance routes like the North Coast Hiawatha.