Daily Inter Lake: Tester lobbies White House for greater rural representation on Amtrak board

by Adrian Knowler

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has threatened to block President Joe Biden’s slate of Amtrak board of directors nominees because of what he sees as insufficient geographical representation.

In a letter released Tuesday, Montana’s Democratic senator said he wanted to see a nominee who had “greater familiarity with the operations and customer base for Amtrak’s long-distance and regional routes.”

Tester wrote that while he felt each of the nominees were individually qualified to serve on the board, the fact that five of the six nominees come from states in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor left rural people like his constituents underrepresented.

Tester also argued that the nominations violated a stipulation in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requiring at least two of the board members to come from states outside the corridor.

“I know that you understand the importance of rail travel and the role it plays in the United States,” reads the letter, which was sent to the White House. “It is important that people in places like rural Montana have a voice at Amtrak to ensure we are not left behind.”

The White House did not respond immediately to questions about whether Biden would adjust his nominations to include another board member from outside the northeast. The White House revealed the president’s nominees in April 2022.

Biden famously commuted to Washington, D.C., as a senator from his Delaware home via Amtrak, and has long spoken in favor of passenger rail expansion.

Funding and expanding Amtrak service in Montana has been a priority for Tester, who put language in the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act that restored daily service to Amtrak’s Empire Builder route.

Tester lobbies White House for greater rural representation on Amtrak board | Daily Inter Lake