Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority Corridor ID Program Proposal

The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) is pleased to announce the submission of a 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 (NCH) corridor from Chicago to Seattle/Portland through southern Montana will be one of routes chosen.

The North Coast Hiawatha will transform the economy of the Greater Northwest region, revitalizing rural communities and tribal nations and provide access for underserved citizens to health care, education, other services, and civic resources often unreachable in winter when highways become unreliable or hazardous. The route will serve as a key catalyst for creating or renewing other passenger rail routes in the American West and Canada and will help awaken a 21st century rail renaissance in western North America.

“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,” said Dave Strohmaier, BSPRA chairman. 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.

Melanie Johnson, Quandel Consultants senior director of planning, indicated that Quandel Consultants has been excited for the opportunity to partner with the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority in developing its Corridor ID proposal. “This effort is the gateway and initial step toward future passenger rail service on the former North Coast Hiawatha route connecting Chicago to Seattle while providing service to cities and communities in Montana and North Dakota that have been without passenger rail for over 40 years. We appreciate the support of KLJ Engineering in drafting this submission as well.”


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