What would Missoula’s economy look like if the Mountain Line system did not exist? That's the question posed by a recently released study by the Montana Department of Transportation.

"Without the Missoula Mountain Line," says Montana Department of Transportation economist Hal Fossum, "Missoula would be a little worse off. We anticipate that if you took all that money and gave it back to taxpayers, Missoula would be about 63 to 65 jobs poorer."

The study estimates a benefit to locals of about 2.4 million dollars which Fossum says will likely increase to around 3 million dollars within the next 20 years.

The study focuses almost entirely on economic benefits and when asked about the costs of the program Fossum replied by saying that because of the diverse sources of funding from both state, federal and local streams, "it's easier for us to keep track of the benefits using this kind of analysis."

The report says Mountain Line covers about 60 percent of its operating costs through local public support and fares however, the study does not indicate what that overall cost is.