U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines today sent a bipartisan letter to the President of Amtrak opposing their plans to terminate one out of every five employees, putting thousands out of work, and reducing the hours of operation of the National Network long distance trains. Daines stressed the need to protect these jobs and the local economy they support on the Hi-Line.
“We are deeply concerned by the downsizing plan outlined in your supplemental funding request and believe it to be contrary to public interest. These cuts would not only dramatically reduce the utility of the nation’s passenger rail network, but would also ignore Congressional intent to expedite economic recovery following the pandemic,” the Senators wrote. “In your FY2021 supplemental funding request you stated “[w]e understand how important Amtrak service is to the nation and, particularly, small communities across the nation where we play a unique role in connecting these communities to the rest of America.” Your request, unfortunately, does not reflect that understanding.”
To read the full letter click, HERE.
Senators Udall (D-NM), Heinrich (D-NM), Bennet (D-CO), Cramer (R-ND), Braun (R-IN), and Hoeven (R-ND) joined Senator Daines’ letter.
Through the CARES Act, Congress provided Amtrak with $1.02 billion to alleviate economic impact, yet, Amtrak’s plan to terminate one out of every five employees would put thousands of Americans out of work at a time when millions of Americans have lost their jobs. The plan also calls for reducing the frequency of all National Network long-distance trains, while consolidating three routes into one, thus greatly reducing Amtrak’s ability to operate its Network at full capacity.
These actions will eliminate thousands of points of connection and dramatically reduce the utility of Amtrak as a transportation provider, irrevocably hurting hundreds of communities and small towns already devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senator Daines’ letter also has support from several stakeholder groups who would be directly impacted by these cuts.
“I’ve traveled to Montana on the Empire Builder, and I’ve heard from Montanans directly about how they depend on that service. Our members are grateful to Sen. Daines for asking the right questions and for defending the rights of the tens of millions of Americans to access reliable interstate transportation. An economic benefits study our association did found that the Builder is worth $327 million every year to the economies of the states it serves, and the government pays only $57 million every year to run it. There are hundreds of small towns across the U.S. that are a lot like Cut Bank and Whitefish, where Amtrak provides an essential economic lifeline. We’re committed to working with Senators Daines, Cramer, Braun, Hoeven, Bennet, Udall, and Heinrich to make sure these small towns can count on these connections.” – Jim Mathews, President, Rail Passengers Association
“On behalf of the 6,800 TCU members at Amtrak, I want to thank Senator Daines for his continued support of Amtrak’s long-distance services and the workers that keep our trains rolling. This pandemic is affecting us all – but that doesn’t mean America stops moving, or that Amtrak can use a crisis to levy massive service and workforce cuts on our rural communities. We applaud Senator Daines for his leadership, as well as Senators Cramer, Braun, Hoeven, Bennet, Udall, and Heinrich for joining this important letter.” – Bill DeCarlo, Nat. Vice President & Nat. Legislative Director, Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM)