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Butte to join other counties in push to entice passenger rail service

Posted at 8:51 AM, Jul 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-22 10:51:34-04

BUTTE — Butte is joining ten other counties in an ambitious push to try to bring passenger rail service back to the region.

“I would like to see where it goes, and it doesn’t cost us anything and I think, you know, having a seat at the table is important if this thing takes off in however many years,” said Butte Commissioner Shawn Fredrickson.

Missoula and Granite counties are among those interested in starting the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority to bring a federally funded rail line like Amtrak’s Empire Builder that runs along the Hi-Line.

“It provides quite a bit of economic dollars to the state of Montana and the Hi-Line, so I think the hope is we can look at if we could restore the southern route what type of economic activity it could bring to our community,” said Fredrickson.

Butte has some rail lines already in place, but this plan would require extensive upgrades.

“We do have some issues in Butte where the Homestake Pass rail line hasn’t been active for many years,” said Fredrickson.

The railroad industry was once a big part of Butte’s history and, if passenger service returns to Butte, it certainly would create a lot of jobs, commissioners say.

“That’s why it’s important to have a seat at the table to make sure that if this does happen that Butte’s involved,” said Fredrickson.