Rallies to protest Amtrak cuts

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SANDPOINT — Rallies are being planned to protest a Trump administration budget proposal that critics say wipes out funding for long distance commuter train service to more than 200 U.S. cities across more than 20 states.

The nationwide Rally For Trains is set for Friday, June 23. More than 20 cities in the South, Midwest and West. So far, the rally closest to Sandpoint, which is expected to be impacted by the proposed cuts to Amtrak, is in Whitefish, Mont., according to the campaign’s online rally locater map.

Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, announced the roll-out of the campaign to protest the proposed cuts to passenger rail services.

“If Congress enacts this budget, our national passenger rail network will largely cease to exist,” said Mathews. “Communities and rail passengers need to clearly and loudly tell Congress that our communities and citizens rely on trains as important travel options.”

The proposed 2018 White House budget would slash funding for Amtrak, leaving 140 million Americans without access, according to NARP. Other cuts to transit and commuter rail programs will cost thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs, especially in small town America. Budget cuts will place a disproportionate amount of pain on rural and working class communities who rely on rail and public transit services for everyday travel.

Although the threatened services are commonly called long-distance trains, they also serve as local and regional transportation for the communities they serve. In Montana and North Dakota, for example, Amtrak’s long distance trains connect 19 towns and cities on a single corridor. In Florida, 28 communities are bound together by long distance routes that offer an important travel option for family and business travelers.

“Millions of people will be left isolated, and those who will suffer the most are those who rely on passenger rail to get to their job, for an ADA-compliant mode of travel, and for people where other transportation options are limited,” said NARP Chairman Peter LeCody. “The voices of these people must be heard by members of Congress, and we plan to make that possible during our ‘Rally For Trains.’”

A website (townswithouttrains.com) has been established to help citizen locate and host rallies, in addition to provide remarks to congressional representatives.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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