Bipartisan support for Amtrak across the Great Plains

Senators and representatives from the Great Plains, Democrats and Republicans alike, are promising to oppose proposed cuts in Amtrak service.

“I think an intercontinental passenger railway is important to our country,” Republican Congressman Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska said. “So I always will vote against that. That is not me being parochial. It is actually saying I think it’s important for America.”

His Nebraska colleague Rep. Adrian Smith similarly opposed the Amtrak cuts. “I think the passenger rail service is very beneficial and it’s something communities around Nebraska, I would say, certainly appreciated, and I think folks beyond communities have used this service,” he said.

Both of North Dakota’s U.S. senators issued statements in support of maintaining Amtrak’s funding.

“Without the Empire Builder, folks in rural communities like Rugby and Devils Lake would be less connected, harming our rural economies,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Sen. John Hoeven said that as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he’s working with other senators to keep Amtrak’s funding in place. “While we continue working to find savings and reductions to reduce our debt and deficit, we need to fund our priorities including supporting rural communities and their economies,” he said.

In Kansas, Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins told the Topeka Capital-Journal that “I especially cannot support the $2.4 billion cut to the Department of Transportation’s budget.” And Senator Jerry Moran told a town hall in Garden City that despite Trump’s budget recommendation to cut Amtrak and Essential Air Service, Congress intends to do what it can to maintain funding.

Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, an early Trump supporter, said he’s against eliminating Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which served 454,625 passengers in fiscal year 2016. “That’s a lot of people that would have to be going on some other means of transportation,” he said, noting that the route’s used by not just vacationers but also workers headed to North Dakota.

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