Tester holds Amtrak town hall in Bozeman

Hears from Montanans on restoring passenger rail to southern Montana

(BOZEMAN, MT) – Senator Jon Tester today reached out to Montanans to hear their views about the possibility of restoring Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha route in southern Montana.  Tester, who last year passed legislation to require Amtrak to study the proposed restoration, held a town hall meeting with officials from Amtrak and the Montana Department of Transportation.  Nearly 200 Montanans, including state legislators, rail passenger enthusiasts, and younger folks looking for new transit options, came for an update.

In 1979, Amtrak discontinued the North Coast Hiawatha passenger train route, which connected Chicago to Seattle.  It passed through Glendive, Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte and Missoula.  Amtrak is currently conducting Tester’s feasibility study to put a price tag on restoring the route, with completion expected in September.

“Amtrak is a lifeline for Montana. I held this town hall meeting so that Montanans could hear directly from Amtrak about the first stages of restoring the Hiawatha route,” said Tester, who serves on the influential Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees funding for Amtrak.  “It makes sense to put all options on the table when we’re making decisions about our transportation infrastructure and our energy security.  The Empire Builder is one of Amtrak’s most popular routes, and I hope someday soon the Hiawatha route will join its ranks to serve Montanans and the nation. 

Joining Tester for the Bozeman town hall were Jim Lynch, Director of the Montana Department of Transportation, and Ray Lang, the lead Amtrak official studying the proposal. 

A record 28.7 million passengers rode Amtrak trains during the past fiscal year.  Amtrak currently connects more than 500 stations across 46 states.  Tester’s legislation includes language to protect Amtrak’s existing Empire Builder service, which stops daily in 12 communities across northern Montana.