MISSOULA — The drive to bring passenger rail service back to the "southern route" in Montana is officially underway, as Missoula County commissioners sign a resolution to form a passenger rail authority.
Thursday's approval comes just short of a year after commissioners began talking with other counties about bringing back passenger rail service across Southern Montana.
It's been over 40-years since Amtrak cut passenger rail service to points like Billings, Bozeman and Missoula. The idea is to pursue a plan to restore that route, adding one change to go through Helena, continuing on to the coast.
Commissioner Dave Strohmaier says with Gallatin County signing the resolution earlier this week, and now Missoula County, that meets the minimum threshold for establishing the rail authority. As many as 10-additional counties are expected to follow suit.
"Something that's never been done in the state, and with both Gallatin County earlier in the week and now Missoula County we have reached the threshold of the minimum two counties necessary to establish the Rail Authority," said Strohmaier. "So it's no longer a matter if 'if' but 'when'."
As many as 10-additional counties are expected to follow suit, with more details to be worked out during a "rail summit" in Missoula in September.