By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
The president of Amtrak will be passing through Havre and the Hi-Line later this week.
David Gunn, who took over as president of the national rail service in the spring of 2002, is riding the Empire Builder to an awards ceremony in Seattle, an Amtrak representative said.
"He takes the train every time he comes out here, the entire round trip," Vernae Graham of Amtrak corporate communications in Oakland, Calif., said today.
Gunn will be in the West for ceremonies for safety and service awards and to recognize 30-year employees, Graham said. The ceremonies will be in Seattle, Sacramento, Calif., and Los Angeles.
Local and state officials will take advantage of Gunn's presence, she added.
North Dakota mayors are riding with Gunn for part of the trip, and Montana Gov. Judy Martz and other state and local officials will join him at Shelby on Thursday, Graham said.
Gunn took over the national rail service after the previous president announced early in 2002 that unless Amtrak received its full appropriations request from Congress, some long-distance passenger services, including possibly the Empire Builder, would be shut down.
After Gunn took over, he said Amtrak would not shut down part of its service and would halt its entire operation if it ran out of money.
Special appropriations and loan guarantees kept the rail service running after a $200 million shortfall was discovered in June 2002.
Gunn requested $1.2 billion in funding in 2002. Congress approved $1.05 billion earlier this year.
Gunn requested $1.8 billion a year for the next five years, which includes money for repairing the service's engines and cars, as well as tracks, bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure.
The U.S. Senate has proposed appropriating $1.346 billion for Amtrak this year, while the U.S. House has proposed appropriating $900 million.