Trains For America

More choices for better transportation

Amtrak lifeline for Montana Hi-Line

Folks in Montana are very smart. I lived in Great Falls back in the 70’s and it is bitterly cold and tough to get around in the winter. The Empire Builder provides a necessary public service throughout some of the most isolated and difficults parts of America. 700 miles of that route pass through Montana and the Billings Gazette is directly “on point” today with an outstanding editorial.

The Amtrak Empire Builder is much more than a tourist train. The 700 miles of the route through northern Montana are home to individuals and businesses who rely on Amtrak for regular transportation of people and cargo.

In testimony earlier this summer to a U.S. House subcommittee, Montana Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger made a strong argument for the state’s only remaining regular passenger rail service, which serves nearly 500,000 riders a year.

“In northern Montana, which is the area served by the Empire Builder, our transportation system consists of one north-south interstate highway and one east-west two-lane highway,” Bohlinger explained. “We have no intercity bus service and only limited access to scheduled air service. During winter, when highways are often closed due to extreme weather, the Empire Builder provides lifeline transportation to residents and businesses that have few other options.”

The Bush people have lots of clever schemes to destroy necessary and efficient transportation, but the Gazette is not buying into such nonsense.

The Bush administration scheme to have states pick up Amtrak costs won’t work in Montana. The state doesn’t have the money to pay for a 700-mile train route. A national rail system must connect states, not exclude them. The Montana Amtrak line is essential to national connections and vital to local residents.

It’s “interstate commerce.” People travel from Fargo, to Williston, to Minot, to Spokane. Amtrak does provide “corridor” service, of course, but the long distance trains are also an essential part of a needed national network

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Filed under: Amtrak, Passenger Rail Politics, Passenger Rail Transportatio Policy

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