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Passenger rail group applies for federal development grant


April 13, 2023

Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) has taken another step toward their continued efforts to renew passenger rail service across Montana’s Southern Route as they announce their submission of a Corridor Identification and Development (Corridor ID) Program proposal to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

According to the FRA, the Corridor ID Program is intended to become the primary means for directing federal financial support and technical assistance toward the development of proposals for new or improved intercity passenger rail services throughout the United States.

BSPRA and its supporters hope the North Coast Hiawatha corridor from Chicago to Seattle and Portland through southern Montana will be one of routes chosen.

BSPRA believes that the revitalization of the North Coast Hiawatha will have the ability to transform and support Montana’s economy, particularly rural communities and tribal nations. The rail authority has been steadfast in their premise that passenger rail will provide broader access to many services including health care, education and civic resources that are often unreachable during the winter months when highways are unreliable and hazardous.

“We’re extremely pleased to submit this Corridor ID Program proposal to the FRA and are grateful for the excellent technical support of Quandel Consultants and KLJ Engineering,” BSPRA Chairman Dave Strohmaier said in a news release. “The North Coast Hiawatha route is already under analysis as part of the FRA’s Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study. The Corridor ID Program will work hand in glove with that study to complete a service development plan and preliminary engineering - precursors to resuming passenger rail service through southern Montana and beyond.”

According to Strohmaier, “this is yet another major accomplishment of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority. As evidence of regional and national interest in our proposal, we’re pleased to have received letters of support including BNSF Railway, Amtrak, five state DOTs, U.S. senators from North Dakota and Montana, and municipalities.”

Created under the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Corridor ID Program will guide the development of new and enhanced intercity passenger rail services that will help bolster economic growth throughout the country. According to the FRA, for each corridor selected, the FRA will award an initial grant of $500,000 for preliminary planning toward creation of a service development plan.


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