Vote on full spending bill expected this week
Washington, DC - The effort to return passenger rail service to Idaho may get its best shot in a decade this week, according to Senator Mike Crapo. Crapo has successfully attached the Idaho-related amendment to an Amtrak funding bill, S. 294, now being debated by the U.S. Senate. The amendment was approved by unanimous consent on Monday evening.
The Crapo amendment will set parameters on how Amtrak evaluates a return of the former Pioneer Route across southern Idaho in several ways. It forces Amtrak to fairly consider rural communities not well-served by passenger rail transportation. It would reduce from two years to one the time frame under which Amtrak must study returning the route to Idaho, and it requires Amtrak to use the same methodology to make decisions about the Pioneer route that it uses on all service decisions.
"Now we have both legislative language and a written commitment from Amtrak's president to come visit Idaho, meet our residents, and work toward restoring Amtrak service to southern Idaho," Crapo said.
At his request, Crapo received a letter last week from Alex Kummant, President and CEO of Amtrak. In the letter, Kummant states "I will make it a personal priority of mine to visit your home state and learn firsthand of the opportunities that exist in Idaho and other western states for expanded intercity passenger rail service."
Amtrak discontinued passenger rail service on the Pioneer Route from Portland through Boise, Twin Falls and Pocatello almost a decade ago after losing money on the service. Amtrak service has continued through Sandpoint, in Idaho's Panhandle, on a route from Chicago to Seattle.