Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority applauds Senator Tester’s Blocking of Biden’s Slate of Amtrak Board of Director Nominees
(Billings, Mont.) The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) strongly supports Montana Senator Jon Tester’s decision to block the White House’s slate of nominees for the Amtrak Board of Directors, urging President Joe Biden to reconsider nominating potential Board members from Western states.
Five of the six White House nominees to the Amtrak board come from the Northeast Corridor communities, despite the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s explicit requirement that new Amtrak Board members represent the breadth of Amtrak’s served communities and stakeholders, especially those in rural America. In fact, none of the six nominees come from a state west of the Mississippi River, leaving half of the country without representation at the highest levels of Amtrak.
“For too long the Amtrak leadership has come from coastal cities. Rural America, dependent on long-distance passenger rail for its transportation needs, has been left without a seat at the table,” said Dave Strohmaier, BSPRA Chairman and Missoula County Commissioner. “We deserve a voice and appreciate Senator Tester’s leadership in ensuring that Montana and the West are seen and heard.”
Amtrak needs to strengthen and expand its services and relationships in many parts of the country but especially in rural areas and communities long denied the benefits of passenger rail. It is critical that people in places like Montana have a voice at the highest levels of Amtrak to ensure that we are not overlooked. One of Senator Tester’s priorities in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – now known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – was to make sure Amtrak gets the support it needs to bring quality passenger rail service to the entire country and not just the Northeast Corridor. That also requires that the Amtrak Board of Directors reflect the nation’s geographic diversity and as such, the IIJA mandates that no more than four members of the Amtrak Board of Directors come from the Northeast Corridor.
Montana and the Greater Northwest are among the most underserved regions of the country by passenger rail, and the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority and our colleagues are focused on the restoration of passenger rail routes across the region. This will provide greater economic opportunity and news jobs for urban, rural and tribal communities as well as provide transportation equity for communities across the region, for many of whom the nearest commercial airport is hundreds of miles away.
About the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA)
The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is a subdivision of state government and the largest transportation district in Montana. It was formed to re-establish safe, reliable, and sustainable passenger rail service across southern Montana and comprises 20 member counties and ex officio membership of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne tribes, Amtrak, Montana Department of Transportation, and BNSF Railway. Passenger rail service through southern Montana ended 43 years ago with the loss of Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha and the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority believes that together we can bring it back. Learn more at bigskyrail.org.
For questions or interview requests, please contact BSPRA Chairman Dave Strohmaier at [email protected] or by phone at 406-852-4765.