Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - It’s been nearly 50 years since Missoulians boarded a passenger rail car, but thanks in part to the efforts of County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, another big step has been taken to return the service to Montana.

Missoula will play an important role in the issue this summer, according to Strohmaier.

Commissioner Dave Strohmaier Provides Update on Passenger Rail Project

“We just received word from the Federal Railroad Administration,” began Strohmaier. “The Amtrak daily long distance service study is looking at discontinued Amtrak routes across the nation,  and as part of this study, the Federal Railroad Administration has chosen Missoula, Montana as the location of their final regional workshop in the Northwest region of the country.”

Government Agencies and Rail Authority will Meet in Missoula on June 7

Strohmaier said the meeting of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority will be in Missoula on June 7, bringing together the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Association and Amtrak to begin laying plans for resuming passenger rail service.

Strohmaier used the phrase ‘that train has already left the station’ to emphasize how quickly the process is moving forward.

“Well, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority was successful in applying to get the North Coast Hiawatha route and the Federal Railroad Administration’s ‘Corridor Identification Program’. This program is the project development pipeline, so we are beyond just making the case as far as whether this is feasible or a good idea. That train has left the station and we're in the project development pipeline as we speak, so it’s another big win for the state of Montana.”

READ MORE: Montana Passenger Rail Efforts Just Took a Big Step Forward

The Passenger Rail Project will Take Years to Complete

Lest anyone start to make travel reservations too soon, Strohmaier said a project like this will necessarily have to move slowly thorough the bureaucratic and governmental system.

“We are still years away, because as with all big projects, we are going to be creating a service development plan for the project over the course of the next year or two,” he said. “There's going to be engineering work that needs to happen, and then an environmental analysis. Following all that, if the stars continue to align, we've got to order the trains themselves.”

Strohmaier repeated the analogy he has used many times that back in the 1960’s Americans put a man on the moon within about a decade, so returning passenger rail service to Missoula is also possible.

LOOK: Most common domestic destinations from Missoula Montana Airport

Stacker compiled a list of the most common domestic flights from Missoula Montana using data from the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

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