Montana Senators praise Senate for investing more in Amtrak

Baucus, Tester Say That Additional Funds Will Provide A Real Boost To Nation’s Rail System

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana's U.S. Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today praised the U.S. Senate for passing multi-year legislation that will authorize increased funding for the nation's rail system.

Baucus and Tester are both co-sponsors of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2007, which passed the Senate today. The multi-year legislation serves as a spending blueprint for the next five fiscal years for Amtrak – the nation's rail system. The legislation calls for an initial 67% increase in funding from the previous bill, with continued growth in the additional years.

"Amtrak is vital to our state," Baucus said. "The Empire Builder is the lifeline along the Hi-line. It's good paying jobs and helps us to transport cargo across the state. It also enables us to travel for work and to visit family and friends. This increase in funding will help keep the trains running on schedule for years to come."

"Amtrak ties together rural towns across the Hi-Line, keeping Montana's economy on track and providing a smart travel option for hundreds of thousands of folks," Tester said.  "As a farmer who lives near the Hi-Line, I know how important the Empire Builder is to our state.  And I'll do everything I can to make sure the trains keep running."

Amtrak's funding authorization expired in 2003 and for the past four years Congress has had to fight year after year to get the funds needed to keep Amtrak running. The new legislation is the first step in getting the funds needed for Amtrak, the senators said and noted that they'll work to provide the authorized funding through grants and other funding measures.

Last week the senators announced that nationwide, Amtrak ridership increased to nearly 26 million passengers last year—a record since the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started operations in 1971.  Amtrak said its total revenue for last year was $1.5 billion.  That's an increase of 11% over Fiscal Year 2006. The Empire Builder reported more than 500,000 passengers during the last fiscal year, an increase of 1.6%. 

The Empire Builder provides daily service between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.  It makes eleven stops along Montana's Hi-Line: Wolf Point, Glasgow, Malta, Havre, Shelby, Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier, Essex, West Glacier and Whitefish.