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Missoula County to Host Virtual Summit on Restoring Passenger Rail to Southern Montana – 9/17 – 10AM-2PM
September 17 @ 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Missoula County will host a virtual Montana Passenger Rail Summit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, to educate and advocate for the restoration of passenger rail service to southern Montana and continued support of the Empire Builder. The event will also showcase current efforts to establish the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, the first of its kind in the state.
The summit is open to elected officials, government staff, business and tourism professionals, and anyone interested in restoring passenger rail service to southern Montana, increasing rail connectivity across the region, and how it would complement existing Empire Builder service in northern Montana.
Registration for the virtual summit is now available at https://montanapassengerrailsummit.org/. The summit was originally scheduled to take place in-person in April but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agenda also is available online. Confirmed speakers include:
- Elaine Clegg, city council president, Boise, Idaho
- Robert Eaton, director, State Supported Service and Government Affairs, Amtrak
- Charles Hamilton, volunteer spokesman, All Aboard Washington
- Jordan Hess, councilman, City of Missoula
- Jim Mathews, president and CEO, Rail Passengers Association
- Roger Millar, secretary of transportation, Washington State Department of Transportation
- Andrea Olsen, representative, Montana House
- Beth Osborne, director, Transportation for America
- John-Robert Smith, chairman, Transportation for America
- John Spain, vice chairman, Southern Rail Commission
- Dave Strohmaier, commissioner, Missoula County
- Jason Stuart, executive director, Dawson County Economic Development Council
- Paul Tuss, executive director, Bear Paw Development Corporation
“Restoring passenger rail service to southern Montana would be transformative for the state — economically, socially and environmentally,” Strohmaier said. “As we recover from the effects of COVID-19, it’s more critical than ever to make smart transportation investments that further community resiliency. Passenger rail is key to realizing that vision, and there is no reason why Montana shouldn’t be a leader in making this a reality.”
Strohmaier, with the support of the Missoula Board of County Commissioners and others, has spearheaded the current renewed effort to restore passenger rail service to the southern part of the state, similar to the North Coast Hiawatha Amtrak route that served Montana until 1979. In addition to providing long-distance transportation within the state, passenger rail restoration would provide for greater connectivity regionally, with possible connections to Seattle, Chicago, Denver and Salt Lake City.
State statute allows for counties to create a regional rail authority as a framework for administering and funding passenger rail service. So far, Missoula County, along with Big Horn, Broadwater, Dawson, Gallatin, Jefferson, Park, Prairie, Sanders, Silver Bow and Wibaux counties have approved a joint resolution to create the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority.
“Bringing passenger rail back to southern Montana would be a game changer for our state, but it is no small task,” Hess said. “We need broad support and coordination from cities and towns across Montana. The summit will be an opportunity to add to the growing chorus of voices supporting passenger rail.”
Sponsorship opportunities are still available, and more information can be found at https://montanapassengerrailsummit.org/sponsor. Current sponsors are listed at https://montanapassengerrailsummit.org/sponsors.
For more information, contact Hess at 406-552-4050 or [email protected].