Twelve Montana counties have officially founded the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority to advocate for the return of passenger rail service across southern Montana.

The finalized joint resolution, fully executed the last of November, seals the commissioner actions and provides for the appointment of one representative from each county to serve on the authority.

Gallatin County was the first to act on July 28, and Powell County the last on Nov. 18.

“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.

“We hope to schedule our first board meeting of the authority in December or January and get this train moving!” 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 constitutes the 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 board comprises commissioner-appointed representatives from each of the following counties: Broadwater; Butte-Silver Bow; Dawson; Gallatin; Granite; Jefferson; Missoula; Park; Powell; Prairie; Sanders and Wibaux.


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