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Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority

Started: October, 2021 Ended: December, 2021 Project ID #4W9403 Status: Completed


The objective of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) is to reintroduce passenger rail services in a the heavily traversed southern corridor between Billings and Missoula, Montana. The project will (1) create an economic-benefits “research note” detailing the economics of passenger rail service in southern Montana, and (2) and examine the operational parameters for passenger-rail service such as stop/station locations and connections with local transportation systems.


The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (“BSPRA”) has partnered with Western Transportation Institute (WTI) with the purpose of reintroducing passenger rail services in a very heavily traversed corridor in the southern region of Montana, following the same route used by Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha until 1979. BSPRA has also engaged with the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), as NARP has conducted economic-impact studies on numerous existing and proposed rail services. As such, a collaborative effort between BSPRA, NARP and WTI is progressing, with the hope to reintroduce passenger rail service in southern Montana with a two-phase project. In Phase 1, NARP will use its in-house economic-benefits modeling tools to assess the annual economic benefits of new passenger-rail service proposed by the BSPRA and report those results to a representative of BSPRA, as well as WTI. Phase 2 of the project will examine operational parameters of the proposed rail service. The parameters include proposed stop/station locations, and how to tie in the rail service with other transportation options, such as public transportation and intercity bus services (including Tribal transit systems), connections to Uber, Lyft, and taxi services, and even to local and regional airports. It is anticipated that WTI will conduct most of the work under the second phase of the project.


Files & Documents

Sponsors & Partners

  • Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority Sponsor
  • Rail Passengers Association Partner

Part of: Transportation Planning and Economics, Small Urban, Rural and Tribal Center on Mobility (SURTCOM)

Project Tagged In: Montana, Passenger rail service, Trains

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