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Hamilton Kicks In $10,000 For Trains

The Bitterroot Line south of Hamilton. (KLYQ Photo)

The Hamilton City Council voted to add $10,000 to a railroad revenue guarantee approved earlier by the Ravalli County Commissioners to open the Montana Rail Link Bitterroot spur line for at least one more year.

The council was unanimous in its vote to supply the money that would guarantee about $250,000 in shipping receipts to Montana Rail Link, which needs to repair flood damage to allow trains to run again. The company said they would not do the repairs without the guarantee.

The line was damaged by last year’s flooding, mainly in an area north of Stevensville. Only smaller maintenance vehicles have been on the line in the past 12 months.

Five shippers came up short to guarantee the business on the line, according to Julie Foster of the Ravalli county Economic Development Agency. Foster explained the deal to the Hamilton council this week, saying that the county is also applying for a Department of Defense grant to help fund the project.

Ironically, even though Hamilton is providing money to repair the line, the trains apparently will not be coming to Hamilton. Foster said repairs to the line between Victor and Hamilton prevent the trains from coming farther south.

Hamilton Mayor Jerry Steele, who doesn’t vote on the council, spoke against the plan. However, the council voted as one to approve the money, with councilors saying the effort was worth helping the valley economy.

Stevensville also is voting to add money to the fund.

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