As Passenger Rail on the Hi-Line Hangs in the Balance, Tester Secures Senate Hearing on Amtrak

Senator successfully urged Commerce Committee to hold October hearing on Amtrak oversight that will feature Montana witness

Amid looming Amtrak service cuts that threaten jobs and connectivity on Montana’s Hi-Line, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that he secured a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing on the future of Amtrak to be held on October 7th with testimony provided by Havre’s Paul Tuss, Executive Director of the Bear Paw Development.

“The truth of the matter is, Amtrak keeps Montana’s Hi-Line communities connected to the rest of the country while providing jobs and revenue to folks in places like Shelby, Havre, and Glasgow,” said Tester. “The coronavirus pandemic has devastated Amtrak ridership, and looming cuts to long-distance lines like the Empire Builder are threatening the livelihood of thousands of Montanans. I’m proud to have secured this hearing so politicians in Washington can finally hear firsthand from folks like Paul Tuss just how critical Amtrak services are to rural America.”

Tester personally requested the hearing in a letter sent to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) earlier this year, urging them to listen to community members who have been devastated due to service cuts, low ridership, and decreased revenue. The hearing will discuss the oversight of funding allocated to Amtrak in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the future of long-distance rail services across the country.

Amtrak operates 15 long-distance routes in 47 states across the country, connecting rural and urban centers and providing inter-state mobility to underserved communities and populations. Earlier this year, Amtrak announced that it may cut jobs and reduce service in rural communities on the Empire Builder Long-Distance Line beginning in October, which includes 12 stations along the Montana Hi-Line that served 121,429 passengers who boarded or disembarked in the state in 2019.

As a member of a community serviced by the Empire Builder, Tester knows how critical Amtrak is to Montana’s Hi-Line and has fought tirelessly to defend it. He recently led a group of his colleagues in demanding that the railroad commit to a timeline for resuming full, long distance passenger service and helped secure $1 billion for Amtrak in the CARES Act to maintain long distance routes during the pandemic. He also led the charge to restore ticket agents in Amtrak stations in Havre and Shelby, and grilled former Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson last year over the railroad’s plans to maintain passenger service in rural America despite the Administration’s proposal to cut 25 percent of the agency’s funding in Fiscal Year 2020.

Read Tester’s letter to Senate Commerce Committee leadership HERE.