- Associated Press - Saturday, February 27, 2016

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Efforts to resume Amtrak service to Culbertson are getting closer to reality, and all that is needed is a depot, according to city Mayor Gordon Oelkers.

Oelkers said Amtrak and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad have endorsed the idea of adding a stop in Culbertson along the Empire Builder train route but there’s been no decision when the service would start.

However, the Great Falls Tribune reports (https://gftrib.com/1UqSD1s ) that a BNSF official contacted late Friday afternoon was not immediately able to confirm Oelker’s news.

Oelkers said a Culbertson stop would serve an estimated 7,000 riders, including some Canadians.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said the company thinks there is a good business reason to stop the train in Culbertson.

“That is the first threshold we cross,” Magliari said. “If it makes business sense, then we talk to the community and where stop should be.”

However, that stop needs a proper place with a platform with the proper length to accommodate the Empire Builder, Magliari said.

“It’s a long train,” he said.

Oelkers said it is hoped that the federal government will provide the $2.5 million to build a depot.

Joseph Boardman, Amtrak’s president and chief executive officer, said they will meet with local leaders and discuss modernizing the existing station or building a new station in Culbertson.

Currently, the nearest Amtrak train stops are 50 miles away in each direction from Culbertson.

The Empire Builder route runs about 2,200 miles between Chicago and Seattle.

In fiscal year 2015, Amtrak saw a 2.8 percent dip in its Empire Builder ridership, going from 450,932 in fiscal year 2014 to 438,376 in 2015, according to figures posted on the company’s website. Revenue decreased 7.3 percent, from $54.5 million in 2014 to $50.5 million in 2015.

Oelkers said Amtrak used to stop in the town until the mid-1970s.


Information from: Great Falls Tribune, https://www.greatfallstribune.com

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