HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – Starting next month, residents on the Hi-Line may begin to notice a decreased presence from Amtrak.
Barry Green, Rail Passenger Association Representative for Montana, says Amtrak plans to layoff 2,000 employees and temporarily cut service on long distance routes, including the Empire Builder, to just three days a week if they do not receive $5 billion in funding from Congress they have requested.
Beginning on Monday, October 19th, the Empire Builder will head west from Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The eastbound train will depart from either Portland or Seattle on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
“A lot of us in the rail advocacy world do believe it could be permanent. It will just depend on how things shake out and how the months go on and the country addresses the virus situation. But that’s always a concern in the back of our minds. Because Amtrak, when it was formed in 1971, doesn’t look like Amtrak of today because of reductions in routes over the course of time, changes of routes due to operating scenarios with host railroads and the like. So it seems that Amtrak wants to focus more on the populated areas of the country and not as much in the rural portions of America.”Although the cuts are stated to be temporary, Green worries they could become permanent.
Legislation to provide emergency funding for Amtrak has passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate.
Green urges Montanans to reach out to their elected officials before these cuts become official.
“We just want people to contact their Congressmen and Senators. We’re at that point. There’s only two weeks left to go before the month of October rolls around. We’re just asking everybody to take that time and make that contact and consider themselves a job well done, because that’s the best that we can do in the times that we live in right now.”
The Empire Builder line includes 12 stations in northern Montana, including in Havre, and has served over 100,000 patrons annually.
For more information, visit narprail.org.