Tester's Amtrak measure now awaiting President's signature

Senate agrees to look into possibility of restoring southern Montana route

(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – A measure by Senator Jon Tester requiring Amtrak to look into the possibility of restoring its southern Montana route is now headed to the President’s desk to be signed into law.

Tester's measure is part of a five-year, $13 billion Amtrak funding bill, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate Wednesday night with a veto-proof vote of 74-24.

"This measure passed its final hurdle in Congress," Tester said. "Now President Bush needs to do the right thing and sign it into law."

The Tester Amendment requires Amtrak to study the feasibility of restoring its North Coast Hiawatha route, which followed I-94 and I-90 from Glendive to Missoula, as long as the service doesn’t interfere with existing Empire Builder service along the Hi-Line. Amtrak discontinued the route in 1979.

"A record number of folks are riding Amtrak," Tester said. "And with out-of-control gas prices, we need to make sure every option is available to folks who need to travel across Montana. Amtrak is already an important part of the Hi-Line. It’s time to see if it makes sense to bring more Amtrak service to the Big Sky State.”

Shortly after Amtrak ended its North Coast Hiawatha service, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle noted that Amtrak discontinued the route because it didn’t serve an average of 150 passengers per mile. At the time the North Coast Hiawatha averaged 149 passengers per mile.

"The money the Hiawatha lost will go into the fuel tanks and the pockets of Arab countries," a Chronicle editorial warned on October 7, 1979. "Now that makes sense, if you don't know what you're doing."

The measure that passed the Senate Wednesday night authorizes $2.5 billion for Amtrak every year for the next five years.