Dear Senator Tester, Senator Daines, and Congressman Gianforte,
The Amtrak Empire Builder line provides an important service to Whitefish, the State of Montana, and the entire highline. Tens of thousands of visitors come to Whitefish each year using Amtrak and contribute significant revenue to our local establishments, retail shops, and lodging. The Empire Builder further increases mobility for Montanans and other northern states. Support and maintenance of the Empire Builder line is vital to the economics and character of our community and the State of Montana.
We are aware of Amtrak’s initiative to unstaff certain stations not averaging high enough passenger volume and that Shelby and Havre had their staffs cut last year. We are concerned with the ripple effects this may have not only for Whitefish but the entire northern Amtrak route. We understand cuts, gaining efficiencies, and trying to provide the best service possible with the least amount of resources. However, these cuts need to be done with efficiencies and improvements to service delivery in mind and not to slowly do away with the Empire Builder, as we understand some believe. Motives other than to increase passenger volumes on the Empire Builder cannot exist.
Whitefish has had an historically high passenger volume, but we worry with current Amtrak initiatives that numbers will drop. We will be watching this closely as drops in passenger volumes will correlate to drops in revenue to local businesses and the jobs they provide. This is of serious concern to the City of Whitefish.
We urge you to take an active role in securing support and infrastructure improvements to the Empire Builder line. A response to this letter demonstrating actions you have taken and will take in the near future would be much appreciated.
John M. Muhlfeld is the Mayor of the City of Whitefish.