Montana feeling Amtrak pinch

Montana State Roundup

Published May 1, 2002  | May 2002 issue

While Amtrak waits for congressional approval of its budget request, threats of shutting down routes across the country abound, among them the Empire Builder that runs through Montana. But Montana is already feeling Amtrak's budget crunch.

Amtrak stopped baggage and shipping services to several Hi-Line, or northern Montana, communities in early March. Following strong protests from local businesses that rely on the railroad for shipping and receiving their goods, Amtrak restored service to some communities. A funeral home in Wolf Point and a flower shop in Glasgow are among businesses that indicated a loss of rail service would increase costs to their businesses and customers.

And Amtrak has cut staff positions in communities along the Empire Builder route, but spokespersons have said these layoffs do not indicate a route cut.

At the end of March, Montana also got the news that Amtrak will not conduct a planned feasibility study for bringing passenger service through southern Montana. The 2001 Montana Legislature had authorized a dollar match for Amtrak to begin the study in 2002.

Kathy Cobb