Daines Fights for Montana Transportation Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines today helped move forward key provisions important to Montana transportation and public safety.

Daines joined the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today in moving forward the “Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act,” which reauthorizes Amtrak services.

Daines successfully included an amendment requiring Amtrak to evaluate options for establishing additional Amtrak stops that would have a positive financial impact to Amtrak, including a potential station in Culbertson, Montana. Daines’ amendment also requires evaluation of options to enhance economic development and accessibility of Amtrak stations and their surrounding areas.

In the “Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2016,” which was also approved today by the Senate Appropriations Committee, Daines successfully worked to include key provisions to help secure radar capabilities in the Powder River Training Complex and evaluate the expansion of Amtrak service in Montana’s Bakken region:

  • Powder River Training Complex: Helps secure radar capabilities for Baker airport and increases safety surrounding the Powder River Training Complex by directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Defense to work together as the expanded Powder River Training Complex range is used and the FAA assesses additional equipment needs.
  • Amtrak: Recognizes the importance of Amtrak’s Empire Builder to the Bakken region and Eastern Montana and directs the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Amtrak to reevaluate previous Empire Builder feasibility studies that prove financial benefit by adding an additional rail stop in Culbertson, Montana. 

Two Daines amendments to increase pipeline safety and decrease regulations on small public housing projects were also successfully included in today’s Appropriations Committee markup:

  • Pipeline safety: Directs Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to provide a report on pipeline safety at river crossings during flood events – requiring Department of Transportation and PHMSA to better respond to unique challenges of pipeline crossing rivers and floodplains. (Co-introduced with Senator Jon Tester.)
  • Public housing: Helps minimize burdensome regulations administered by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Housing on small public housing authorities that already experience stretched budgets – in turn, reducing regulatory overhead costs and providing more funds for assisting those who need it.

Daines also helped secure language to provide investments and flexibility in Montana’s transportation and housing network:

  • Montana air service: Fully funds Essential Air Service at $155 million and the Airport Improvement Program at $3.35 billion. Makes investments in the FAA Next Generation Air Transportation Systems and the Contract Towers program to help ease future congestion and reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace.
  • Certainty for Montana infrastructure projects: Fully funds the Highway Trust Fund at $30.26 billion and National Infrastructure Investments at $500 million
  • Rail safety: Increases funding for the Federal Railroad Administration, Safety and Operations to $53 million above FY15 enacted levels— including $289 million for Amtrak operations and continued service for all current routes and $1.1 billion for capital grants.
  • Pipeline and hazardous materials transport safety: Fully funds PHMSA at $246 million to help address safety concerns related to recent pipeline and crude oil by rail accidents and helps develop web-based curriculum for local emergency responders.
  • Increasing efficiency in public housing: Expands the Moving-to-Work program by an additional 300 public housing agencies to participate in the program, which will enable innovative approaches to reduce the cost of housing assistance, improve program efficiency, and promote family self-sufficiency.
  • Caring for homeless youth: Expands and improves the delivery of HUD housing and services for homeless youth, including $20 million to support more than 2,500 new family unification vouchers to prevent youth exiting foster care from becoming homeless.  Provides $40 million to test comprehensive efforts to end youth homelessness in urban and rural areas.