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Entries in MRL Bitterroot line (2)


Ravalli leaders struggling to finish rail funding plan 

(HAMILTON)- That idea of using a combination of local government and business money to save rail serve to the Bitterroot is running into some problems.

Ravalli County and government and business leaders have been scrambling to come up with a combination of funds that will help convince Montana Rail Link to leave the Bitterroot branch line in service. Last fall, MRL filed a notice of intent to discontinue the line because it was no longer profitable.

Several shippers in Ravalli County, including the Selway Corporation in Stevensville and local feed stores have committed to give MRL a certain level of business over the next year. And Ravalli County and local city leaders have been trying to generate about $62,000 to complete the package.

Ravalli County commissioners agreed to spend $22,000 and had asked Stevensville and Hamilton to come up with the balance. But Stevensville has balked at committing the full $30,000, or at least doing so without another month to work out the plan.

Ravalli County Commissioner Greg Chilcott told Montana’s News Station Wednesday that’s put the county in the position of deciding what the county can do to keep the plan in play. Commissioners will meet this morning in Hamilton to discuss the latest developments.

MRL said last week its hoping to re-open the line as soon as May 1st, and had crews inspecting the track to see what repairs and other work might be needed. The line hasn’t been used since last May. 


Ravalli County will back initial work on railroad grant

(HAMILTON)- Ravalli County government and business will be working hard this coming week to submit the initial information for a grant to keep rail service running down the Bitterroot. 

But they'll also digging for more data from Montana Rail Link to support the full application a few weeks from now. 

MRL has used the railline between Missoula and Darby for more than a year, saying its no longer profitible. MRL has also closed operations on the spur into Lake County and filed paperwork with federal agencies showing its intent to file to close both lines this spring. That has Ravalli leaders scrambling to find ways to keep the railroad open.

Last week, The Ravalli County Economic Development Authority, county commissioners and chamber leaders started exploring the idea of applying for a federal TIGER grant for upwards of $3,000,000 to help MRL make railroad improvements to keep the line functional.

KPAX TV reports that Thursday commissioners agreed to spend up to $5,000 to pay for the initial TIGER application. But commissioners also want to know the mechanics of applying federal grant money to a private rail line, and where the county would come up with an estimated $400,000 for local matching funds. 

The pre-application must be submitted by the end of the week.