Tester to Obama: Put Westerner on Amtrak Board
Senator: Current board ‘fails to reflect the national scope’ of rail system
(BIG SANDY, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester is urging the White House to fill the last open spot on Amtrak’s Board of Directors with someone who lives in the American West.
Citing a new requirement that the President seek “balanced representation” on the board, Tester led a bipartisan group of Western Senators asking the President to appoint someone from the West as one of the rail system’s nine directors. The board currently has one vacancy.
Tester noted that five of the eight current board members represent the northeast corridor of the nation, with three from New York alone. The only board member representing an area west of the Mississippi River is from Texas.
“Amtrak’s importance in Western states should not be ignored,” Tester wrote in a letter today to the President. “Some of Amtrak’s busiest routes and stations are in the West—as are some of its greatest opportunities for growth and expansion.”
Amtrak’s Board of Directors sets policy and establishes goals for the rail system, as well as oversees the network’s management and budget. Congress is responsible for Amtrak’s funding.
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, which Tester helped pass in 2008, includes a provision that the President should “try to provide adequate and balanced representation of the major geographic regions of the United States served by Amtrak.”
Tester’s letter to the President appears below.
August 17, 2010
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We write to follow up on previous efforts urging you to appoint someone from a Western state to the last open position on Amtrak’s Board of Directors. As you know, Amtrak is a critical part of our country’s transportation system. This vital passenger rail service allows millions of Americans from all regions of the country to travel on business, visit family and go on vacation. This is especially true in the West.
Unfortunately, Amtrak’s current Board still fails to reflect the national scope and significance of the rail network. Of the eight current Board members, five come from the Northeast. Of these five, three come from New York alone. The Midwest has a voice with two members from Illinois, and the southern United States is represented by a member from Texas – the only member from west of the Mississippi River.
Accordingly, we urge you once again to fill the last remaining Board position with someone from a Western state so the Board will be more representative of Amtrak’s national presence. Amtrak’s importance in Western states should not be ignored, as transportation options in the West are often more limited than in more densely populated regions of the country. Some of Amtrak’s busiest routes and stations are in the West – as are some of its greatest opportunities for growth and expansion. Moreover, in making Board appointments, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 states that the President shall “…try to provide adequate and balanced representation of the major geographic regions of the United States served by Amtrak.” By appointing a Westerner to the last Board position, you will help fulfill this important goal.
We appreciate your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you on this and other efforts to improve transportation options in the western United States.