MISSOULA — The man tasked with helping state governments launch passenger train service commends Montana counties for forming the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority.
He is also expressing optimism Amtrak will be able to work with existing "host" railroads to solve questions as the idea of "southern route" service across Montana is explored.
The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority became an official organization a few weeks ago, with board members across the state meeting virtually Wednesday as they iron out details of the new effort.
Rob Eaton, who heads Government Affairs and State Supported Service for Amtrak, told the board there will be a lot of questions to be answered as the Authority moves forward -- including meetings with the Montana Legislature and Department of Transportation.
He said Amtrak will help work with Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Montana Rail Link to iron out how freight and passenger trails will share track, and informal meetings have already started.
"We had some in-person meetings as well as I met with Montana Rail Link. They know of you, obviously," Eaton told the Authority. "Your relationship with Montana Rail Link will have to be strong since they're the host. It's their infrastructure."
Eaton says the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority will also have to decide where the trains would eventually run, and if they'll connect with service from surrounding states.