12 Montana counties clinch Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority

POWELL Co, Mont. - Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority announced they are officially established in 12 Montana counties Tuesday, securing the comeback of the passenger rail service across the southern part of the state. 

The Montana counties hit the ground running with the Big SkyPassenger Rail Authority project in spring 2020.

In a release from Missoula County, commissioners from the following counties will select one representative per county to serve on the authority for the passenger rail:

  • Broadwater
  • Butte-Silver Bow
  • Dawson
  • Gallatin
  • Granite
  • Jefferson
  • Missoula
  • Park
  • Powell
  • Prairie
  • Sanders
  • Wibaux

“Counties in Montana have done what has never been done before: establish the first regional passenger rail authority in the state. This will set the stage for re-establishing regular passenger rail service through the southern tier of the state—a transformational project for Montana that will add to and complement the Empire Builder along the Hi-Line,” Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier said in the release. “We hope to schedule our first board meeting of the authority in December or January and get this train moving!”

Per MCA 7-14-16 stated in the release,”the purpose of the authority is to provide for the preservation and improvement of abandoned rail service for agriculture, industry or passenger traffic and to provide for the preservation of abandoned railroad right-of-way for future transportation uses, when determined to be practicable and necessary for the public welfare.”The authority constitutesthe governance structure to investigate, analyze, seek funding for and develop long-distance, inter-city rail service to further the health, safety, welfare and economic prosperity throughout Montana.

“The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority will foster a more connected Montana,” Butte-Silver BowCommissioner Shawn Fredrickson said in the release. “Butte-Silver Bow is looking forward to working with the rest of the state to make it become a reality.”

“Glendive/Dawson County stands to benefit greatly both economically and socially through the restoration of passenger rail service,”Dawson County Economic Development Executive Director Jason Stuart said in the release.“Economically, having passenger rail service and restoring the use ofour historic passenger rail depot will draw more visitors and tourists through and to Glendive, creating greater economic opportunity for our Main Street businesses. With Makoshika State Park topping 100,000 visitors for the first time in its history in 2020, we have no doubt that providing passenger rail service to the gates of Montana’s largest and most spectacular state park will help drive visitation to Makoshika and Glendive even higher. Socially, having passenger rail service will be a great boon to our residents’ travel options, in particular for travel to the western side of the state. Dawson County could not be more pleased to be a founding member of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, and we look forward to lending our voice to this important effort.”

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