Tester Highlights Importance of Passenger Rail Service to Montana’s Economy

Senator emphasizes the need for rail expansion in Montana and across the western states

As part of his continued effort to preserve and expand commuter rail access in Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today highlighted the critical importance of Amtrak passenger rail to Montana’s economy in a Commerce Committee hearing on President Biden’s nominees for the Amtrak Board of Directors. Tester expressed his frustration that none of the nominees to the Board were from the western United States, with four from the East Coast and the fifth from the Midwest. He also expressed his concerns that none of those nominated to the positions had ever visited Montana to gain an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing Western states.

“The Empire Builder that serves Montana is so critically important to our state and is under attack almost every single day by somebody who doesn’t want that service to be there…The bottom line is if we lose Amtrak in Montana, it is an incredible hit,” Tester said. “If we can make our train travel as convenient as it is in other countries, I think it can be a tremendous economic developer in our country.”

Tester has been Montana’s leading advocate for passenger rail expansion. He was instrumental in restoring full, daily service to the Empire Builder this past May. And Tester’s bill reinstating furloughed Amtrak employees and rolling back previous service reductions to the Empire Builder route was signed into law as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill.

Tester personally secured a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the Amtrak cuts in 2020, inviting Havre’s Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, to testify on the importance of long-distance rail to rural and frontier economies in Montana and across the country.

Senator Tester was also the only member of the Montana delegation to vote for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included guidance and funding for the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study to assess and support the restoration of discontinued essential long-distance routes like the North Coast Hiawatha.