Missoula legislator wants study of statewide passenger rail service
By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service
HELENA – A lawmaker from Missoula has introduced a resolution that would study ways to improve public transportation, like passenger trains, in the state.
“I think when you commit to something that brings people together, then you actually do create economic growth,” said Democratic Rep. Andrea Olsen, who introduced House Joint Resolution 40 to the House Business and Labor Committee Wednesday.
The findings of the study created by the legislation would be reported to the next Montana Legislature. There were no proponents or opponents at the hearing.
A 2010 study by the Montana Department of Transportation showed the start-up costs for a train route from Billings to Missoula would be around $160 million, with an estimated annual passenger revenue of $400,000.
The study also says southern Montana has not had passenger train service since the late 1970s.
Amtrak operates about a dozen passenger train stations in the northern part of the state.
The Trump Administration has proposed to cut nearly $2.5 billion from next year’s federal transportation budget. The National Association of Railroad Passengers says at minimum, that would cut 220 cities from Amtrak services, including 11 stations in Montana.
Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.