Tester Secures Rural Representation on Amtrak’s Board, Derails East Coast Bias at Key Committee Markup


Speaking at a U.S. Senate Commerce Committee markup this week, U.S. Senator Jon Tester highlighted his successful push to force the Biden Administration to withdraw one of its Amtrak Board of Directors nominees and replace them with someone outside of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Tester’s comments follow a successful months-long effort to secure rural representation on the Amtrak Board.

Tester began his remarks before the Committee by noting the important role that Amtrak plays in connecting Montana’s Hi-Line communities: “Amtrak is a critical part of America’s infrastructure from coast to coast, but it’s not just about the Northeast corridor. Amtrak is important all over this country. In my home state of Montana, we’ve got the Empire Builder that has been connecting Montana to the rest of the world for generations. It is important that rural America is not left behind on the Amtrak Board.”

Additionally, Tester emphasized that his successful push to secure rural representation on the Amtrak Board will make the board stronger and be beneficial to the entire country: “I have been crystal clear from the jump that because of the law – our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that we passed a year or so ago – we fought to make sure that rural America, and that long-distance rail, had a place on the Amtrak Board. The Administration did not heed that. Since then, they have pulled back on one nominee so that we can get somebody that understands long-distance rail on the Amtrak Board. Look, I think that’s a good sign. It will make the Amtrak Board stronger and certainly will make America stronger for that because geographic diversity is always well served on any board.”

Last week, Tester secured a major win for Montana by forcing the White House to withdraw one of its Amtrak Board nominees and replace them with someone outside of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The shift comes after Senator Tester successfully blocked President Biden’s slate of Amtrak Board nominees until the Administration brought them into compliance with geographic representation requirements from Tester’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Tester began formally blocking President Biden’s nominees to serve as members of the Amtrak Board of Directors back in April.

Tester worked with four Democrats and five Republicans to craft his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He specifically worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to include provisions that will enable Amtrak to modernize its operations and continue to serve the entire country’s needs for decades to come. Part of that effort included crafting a bipartisan fix that restructured the Amtrak Board of Directors so that it better reflects the nation’s geographic diversity. In addition to other requirements, Congress mandated in the law that no more than four members of Amtrak’s Board come from the Northeast Corridor, which statute defines to include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia. Prior to Tester’s successful block, five of the six nominees for Amtrak’s Board were from the Northeast Corridor.

Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for strengthening Amtrak in rural America and last year successfully fought to restore full, daily service to the Empire Builder. Tester’s bill reinstating furloughed Amtrak employees and rolling back previous service reductions to the Empire Builder route was signed into law as part of the American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to vote for the bill. Tester personally secured a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the cuts in 2020, inviting Havre’s Paul Tuss, Executive Director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, to testify about how crucial long-distance rail is to rural and frontier economies in Montana and across the country.

Source: JON Tester