Havre Daily News - News you can use

By Alex Ross 

Budget proposal keeps Amtrak in funding

Cut Bank native warns of cuts in the making


March 23, 2018

Havre Daily News/Ryan Welch

The Empire Builder heads west from Havre shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday. Funding and operation of Amtrak's long-distance rail service is again in question with President Donald Trump's budget zeroing out funding and concerns arising that the administration plans to reduce the number of days a week it runs.

Editor’s note: This has been revised to more accurately reflect Mark Meyer’s guest editorial.

Although a former Hi-Line resident has warned people that the Passenger Rail Association is “pulling the alarm bell” regarding the future of Amtrak long-distance passenger trains, the members of Montana's Congressional delegation said they will support keeping Amtrak's Empire Builder running along the Hi-Line in its route from Chicago to the West Coast.

Cut Bank native Mark Meyer, a member of the Rail Passengers Association, sent a column from Portland, Oregon, to the Havre Daily News, printed on Page A4 of today's edition, warning that the Trump Administration zeroed out Amtrak’s funding in his proposed budget and that good evidence shows a discussion is underway in Amtrak about reducing long-distance service, possibly to three days a week.

But the budget approved by Congress Thursday would continue to fund the service, a representative for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said.

The $1.3 trillion spending bill passed Thursday would fully fund Amtrak's Empire Builder Line, Dave Kuntz, a spokesperson for Tester said.

The omnibus bill passed the Senate at midnight after easily passing the House.

In his budget proposal, President Donald Trump had proposed cutting funding, Kuntz said.

"Senator Tester will oppose any future requests to cut long-distance trains and any proposals that would lead to a reduction in service to three days a week," he said.

A spokesperson for Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont, also said he is opposed to cuts to the Empire Builder.

"Today, Amtrak's Empire Builder provides connectivity to 12 Montana communities along the Hi-Line that wouldn't otherwise have access to public transit. I will continue to fight to protect the Empire Builder and to ensure that  rural communities remain connected," Daines said.

U.S. Rep Greg Gianforte. R-Mont., also voiced support for Amtrak.

"I will continue working to ensure that Montanans along the Hi-Line have reliable access to rail service. It's important that we keep our rural communities connected with the Empire Builder," Gianforte, said.


Havre Daily News Editor Tim Leeds contributed to this story.


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