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Amtrak Empire Builder Resumes Daily Service Across Montana

A sign reading "Whitefish Depot" in front of the Great Northern train depot in Whitefish, MT
Josh Burnham

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Amtrak's Empire Builder train has resumed daily service from Chicago to Seattle and Portland, including a dozen stops along Montana's Hi-Line, after cutbacks made due to the pandemic.

The Empire Builder makes stops in Wolf Point, Glasgow, Malta, Havre, Shelby, Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier Park, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish and Libby in Montana.

Whitefish is the busiest stop, with more than 55,000 passengers boarding or disembarking there in a typical year, the Daily Inter Lake reported.

“Whitefish depends on the reliable service — and economic boost — that the Empire Builder route brings, and we are thrilled that service is returning to seven days a week,” Whitefish Mayor John Muhfeld said in a statement. “With travel season right around the corner, this is just the shot in the arm our economy needed as we work to build back after the pandemic.”

Amtrak reduced service on most of its long-distance routes to three days a week in October as ridership dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester introduced legislation to restore full funding, Amtrak was provided $166 million in the most recent federal stimulus bill to return to normal operations and reinstate about 1,200 workers.

Tester, a Democrat, had called the reduced service “an unacceptable attack on our frontier communities” because the route is relied on by some Montana residents in rural areas to connect with the rest of the country.

Daily service resumed Monday on the Empire Builder along with the California Zephyr from Chicago through Denver and Salt Lake to San Francisco; the Coast Starlight from Seattle and Portland to Los Angeles; and the Texas Eagle from Chicago through St. Louis and Dallas to Los Angeles.

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