Montana rail organization grows to 13 counties

Carbon County joins organization to bring passenger service to southern Montana

The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority grew a bit larger this week when its board of directors approved Carbon County as the newest member.

The addition of Carbon County brings the number of counties that have joined the rail authority to 13, stretching across the state from Wibaux County on the North Dakota border to Sanders County on the Idaho border.

big sky passenger rail authority, montana carbon county, montana living, amtrak, railroad service

An Amtrak train stops in Whitefish, Montana. Amtrak provides passenger rail service on the northern tier of Montana through its Empire Builder, but southern Montana has not had rail service since the former Montana Daylight operated from Livingston, Montana, to Sandpoint, Idaho. (Montana Living photo by David Reese)

“Being a member of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is a big deal for Carbon County, and we look forward to what it brings to citizens of our county,” Carbon County Commissioner Scott Miller said. “Montana is moving forward into the future, and Carbon County has to move with the state to bring the economy and infrastructure needed to support this and the next generation. We need Montanans to stay in Montana and good people to move in to help keep Montana alive.”

With the addition of Carbon County, the BSPRA will look to continue growing in the coming months. Other counties are currently considering petitioning the Authority for membership. The BSPRA remains hopeful that eventually all the counties eligible to join the authority – both those along the former Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha route and those along the former passenger routes running south to Denver and Salt Lake City –

will do so. To join the BSPRA, a county commission must first adopt a resolution petitioning the Authority for membership, followed by the Authority adopting a resolution enlarging the boundaries of the Authority.

“With another county getting on board, the Authority continues to demonstrate the importance of passenger rail to the state of Montana and the ability of passenger rail to bridge partisan, ideological, geographic and urban-rural divides,” said Dave Strohmaier, BSPRA chair.

While only county commissions can adopt the joint resolution to join the authority, the BSPRA encourages the city and town councils, chambers of commerce, CVBs, business owners, and private citizens within eligible counties that have not yet joined to encourage their county commissioners to consider the requesting membership. Eligible counties that have not yet joined the BSPRA include Custer, Rosebud, Treasure, Big Horn, Yellowstone, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Madison, Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Lewis and Clark, Lake, and Mineral counties.

“Carbon County is the first outside the 12 founding counties of the BSPRA to join it, and we are hopeful that their decision will spur other counties to make the move to join,” associationg Vice Chair Jason Stuart, representative for Dawson County, said. “Our push to restore passenger rail service is not a ‘red versus blue,’ or a ‘conservative versus liberal,’ or a ‘rural versus urban’ issue, as evidenced by the political, social and economic diversity of the counties that make up the rail authority. We hope other counties that have not yet joined recognize that and come to see the tremendous economic and social opportunities the successful restoration of passenger rail service would present for our communities.”

The rail authority was formed in late 2020 under a Montana state law that allows counties to join together to form a regional rail authority for the purpose of advocating for passenger rail service. Each county that joins is allowed to appoint a representative to the BSPRA Board of Directors.

Including the addition of Carbon County, the other rail authority members are Wibaux, Dawson, Prairie, Park, Gallatin, Broadwater, Jefferson, Butte-Silver Bow, Powell, Granite, Missoula and Sanders counties.

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published