Kristi Noem Upset Amtrak Won't Use Infrastructure Money For Rail Lines to Alaska, Hawaii and South Dakota

As President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure bill faces criticism from Republican leaders, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem offered a disparaging review of the proposal in a social media message shared on Thursday.

Noem, a prominent Republican who some have already proposed as a possible presidential candidate during the next election cycle, disapproved specifically of the bill's intent to expand Amtrak services in certain sections of the U.S. The national railroad service, established decades ago, would receive $80 billion in federal funding under Biden's expansive plan to enhance U.S. infrastructure and prompt economic revitalization.

The president unveiled his proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, on Wednesday. It aims to invest in dozens of sectors and pledges to allocate significant resources toward highway, bridge and road construction, public transit systems and environmentally conscious transportation alternatives, in addition to affordable and supportive housing, small businesses, manufacturing and research endeavors.

"Biden's 'infrastructure' bill spends more on electric cars than on roads or bridges," wrote Noem in a tweet posted Thursday morning. "It gives $80 billion to Amtrak to build rail lines to every state EXCEPT Alaska, Hawaii, or SOUTH DAKOTA. And it repeals Right to Work protections that are proven to grow the economy."

Biden’s “infrastructure” bill spends more on electric cars than on roads or bridges.

It gives $80 billion to Amtrak to build rail lines to every state EXCEPT Alaska, Hawaii, or SOUTH DAKOTA.

And it repeals Right to Work protections that are proven to grow the economy.

— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) April 1, 2021

A spokesperson from Noem's office did not elaborate on the governor's criticism of national railroad access or how Biden's infrastructure plan could influence that in South Dakota. The representative instead pointed to Noem's general critiques of the bill, which she has publicized both on Twitter and during recent interview appearances.

"Frankly, she doesn't support [the bill] on either the tax or spend side," the spokesperson said in an email. Newsweek inquired specifically about Noem's concern regarding Amtrak service, but did not receive a response.

Amtrak has never operated in South Dakota. The company currently services most U.S. states, outside of Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming, in addition to South Dakota. Its railroad network is vast, although Amtrak's presence is predominantly concentrated along the East Coast, with numerous lines established in the northeastern and Great Lakes regions. Service becomes more sparse as railroads move further west.

Governor Kristi Noem, Republican, South Dakota
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, criticized President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan in a tweet shared Thursday. Above, Noem addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on February 27, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The rail company released a map indicating new routes where it might expand service lines with funding allocated through Biden's infrastructure plan. Destinations listed on the map represent areas where local officials have already expressed interest in receiving Amtrak service, said spokesperson Marc Magliari in comments to Newsweek on Thursday afternoon.

The prospective destinations include Cheyenne, Wyoming's capital city. Although plans do not exist presently to expand Amtrak lines into South Dakota, Magliari described its map as neither "exclusive nor prescriptive."

"Other interested parties are welcome to weigh in with their ideas and suggestions," he said, referencing a letter that Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn addressed to Congress in January, outlining the company's goals for wider expansion and requesting federal resources to support its efforts.

Destinations, and in few cases, states, originally excluded from Amtrak's network, were not decided by the company itself. When a national railroad service was first developed during Richard Nixon's presidency, federal transportation authorities determined which locations would and would not receive rail service. At the time, Maine and Oklahoma were excluded alongside South Dakota and Wyoming.

The Biden administration is endeavoring to foster increased access to Amtrak service with its infrastructure bill, a White House spokesperson confirmed to Newsweek in a statement.

"The President believes Americans deserve world-class passenger rail. Our first priority is to fix the system we have, our second priority is to bring rail service to new cities and communities where the benefits of the investment outweigh the cost," the statement read. "The plan includes a total of $80 billion in additional funding for rail programs. The plan also includes funding to support intercity passenger beyond the existing Amtrak network, such as new high-speed rail corridors or intercity rail lines."