USDOT's Build America Bureau awards Pacific Northwest Economic Region grant to advance passenger rail concepts

Nov. 15, 2023
Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is a sub-recipient of the grant and will use its $150,000 in federal funding to expand and enhance its rail services.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau has awarded the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) a grant to continue advancing infrastructure development through its five-state Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (RIA) and will use the grant funding to deliver value in Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Specifically, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA), as a grant sub-recipient of $150,000, will work with PNWER RIA on the following projects:

  • Research feasibility and economic case for renewing Amtrak small parcel delivery service as an economic driver for rural and tribal communities along the Great Northern (Empire Builder) and North Coast Hiawatha (southern Montana) corridors.
  • Analyze track along the Amtrak Empire Builder corridor to identify small to medium track improvement projects that—if bundled—would co-benefit freight and passenger rail service. Grade separation projects and opportunities for transit-oriented development near passenger rail stations are major areas of focus.
  • Analyze track from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Glendive, Mont., along proposed Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha route to identify small to medium track improvement projects for enhanced freight and passenger rail service and identify funding opportunities that promote safety and/or economic development opportunities for rural communities and tribal nations.

“These funds will further our work both in southern Montana and also along the Empire Builder route, to the benefit of both freight and passenger operations,” said BSPRA Chairman Dave Strohmaier. “This is a great example of how working together at a regional scale, with the sweat equity and financial support of partners, is moving this train down the tracks.”

“The RIA grant will continue to allow the PNWER Accelerator to leverage public and private talent and financial resources to fast track key transportation projects in five states,” said PNWER RIA Director Bruce Agnew. “We look forward to supporting the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority.”