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Amtrak Funding Could Be In Question


It appears that funding for Amtrak might be up for debate by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to a press release from the Rail Passengers Association.

The release reports that the House Committee on Appropriations’ draft for fiscal year 2004 for transportation, housing and urban development includes a cut of 64 percent to Amtrak’s budget from last year and 76 percent below of what Congress authorized in the Investment in Infrastructure Act.

“The funding levels outlined in this bill would require deep cuts to train service across the entire network — on the northeast corridor, state-supported and long distance services — and threaten the complete elimination of some routes,” said Jim Mathews, president and CEO of Rail Passengers Association. “This proposed budget does not take the task of governing seriously, ignoring the needs of hundreds of Amtrak- served communities in favor of scoring cheap political points. We stand ready to work with House and Senate leadership to come up with a responsible budget that preserves essential transportation and economic services.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, DMont, commented to this newspaper, “Folks in Washington might not understand the challenges faced by Montanans, but these partisan games won’t fly on my watch.

Amtrak is critically important to keeping rural Montana and communities on the Hi-Line connected, which is why I successfully fought to increase Amtrak funding in my Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This reckless proposal would make significant cuts to Amtrak, and I stand ready to do everything in my power to stop it from advancing in the Senate.”

The office of U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., didn’t respond to an email requesting a comment.

Roosevelt County Commissioner Robert Toavs said, “We all know that Amtrak is one of our dependable modes of transportation in and out of the area.” Amtrak

Toavs said area residents would be impacted if the Empire Builder’s route is cut or service is decreased in the future.

“It would be one more way it would isolate rural areas,” Toavs said. “It’s a safe way to travel and a way to access different parts of the country.”

This budget proposal comes at the same time as the U.S. Department of Transportation is overseeing a generational investment in passenger rail infrastructure.

“These proposed cuts are all the more infuriating coming at the same time as we’re seeing unprecedented interest in adding and upgrading passenger rail service from cities and towns across America,” Mathews

said. “When the Federal Railroad Administration asked for proposals as part of their Corridor Identification Program, there was a massive response from states across the nation - Red and Blue, North and South, Heartland and Coastal. We can’t afford to gut these exciting new programs before they even get started.”

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