After Trump’s Attempt to Gut Amtrak Funding, Tester Fights to Strengthen Empire Builder Line

Senator demands answers from Amtrak as he prepares to fight for needed funding

(Big Sandy, Mont.) – As the Senate gears up to craft next year’s budget, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is leading a bipartisan effort to strengthen rural Amtrak service and hold the Trump Administration accountable for attempts to gut funding for the Empire Builder Line.

Tester is pressing Amtrak President Richard Anderson to reaffirm his support for rural Amtrak routes, including Montana’s Empire Builder. In a bipartisan letter, Tester underscored the important role Amtrak plays in rural communities across Montana’s Hi-Line.

“Congress purposely created a national network of long-distance and state supported train service throughout the nation, regardless of how rural it may be,” Tester wrote. “Amtrak is a web of essential connections that bind our country together and link rural communities with major markets and economic opportunities. It provides residents of these communities with transportation options on which families, seniors, and businesses rely to access jobs, create economic opportunities, see our beautiful country, and visit family. The federal investment in Amtrak ensure small, midsize, and rural communities served by Amtrak’s long-distance and state-supported routes continue to receive this essential service.”

Tester is pushing Anderson to answer specific questions regarding Amtrak’s commitment to rural areas, including:

  • Amtrak’s decision to eliminate ticket agents, why did Amtrak calculate totals based on weekly boardings on routes that do not run daily?
  • Amtrak’s accounting methods used to determine the cost of operating long-distance service?
  • Is Amtrak planning to alter any long-distance train routes?
  • Is Amtrak planning to introduce any new short-distance routes?
  • What basis does Amtrak claim that demand for long-distance service is down, despite usage numbers rising?

In all three federal budgets submitted to Congress since taking office, President Trump has gutted Amtrak funding-including a proposal to eliminate the Empire Builder Line.

Tester used his position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to successfully fight the President’s proposed plan to zero out the Empire Builder’s funding in this year’s budget.

Tester also worked with both parties last year to secure an additional $1.3 billion for National Network Grants that support Amtrak’s long-distance service.

Tester is demanding Amtrak to respond to his questions by April 29, 2019.

Tester’s bipartisan letter to Amtrak is available HERE.