KALISPELL — The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill approved by the U.S. Senate over the weekend includes funding for Amtrak's Empire Builder route, which runs through northern Montana and other states.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester proposed the legislation to provide up to $166 million to reinstate furloughed Amtrak employees and restore daily service on the carrier's routes, the Daily Inter Lake reported. The bill now moves to the House where it is expected to be approved before heading to the desk of President Joe Biden to sign.
The Empire Builder and other long-distance routes were cut because of a massive decline in passengers as a result of the pandemic. The company furloughed about 1,250 employees nationwide.
The Empire Builder route was reduced to operating three days a week between Chicago and Seattle and Portland, Oregon. It services a dozen communities in Montana, including Whitefish, where more than 55,000 passengers board or disembark annually.
"Folks on the Hi-Line depend on Amtrak to stay connected, and its full return will boost the economy and create good-paying jobs across the region," Tester said.