Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, long a proponent of returning passenger rail service to western Montana, announced a passenger rail summit to be held online.

KGVO spoke with Strohmaier between meetings on Tuesday.

“On the 17th of this month, one week from this coming Thursday, there will be the Montana Passenger Rail Summit that we're co sponsoring with a number of other groups including the cities of Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, the Dawson County Economic Development Council, and many others,” said Strohmaier.

The seminar will be ‘virtual’ and Strohmaier provided details on how to attend.

“This will be a virtual event and you can register for it at Montana passenger rail summit.org,” he said. “We've got a stellar lineup of speakers lined up and it will be an opportunity to hear about not only how to keep the Empire Builder strong along the High Line, but also what the next steps might look like to restore passenger rail service through Missoula.”

Strohmaier also said a passenger rail authority will be in existence soon.

“The rail authority is going to be a reality, as well,” he said. “We now have nine counties that have adopted joint resolutions to establish the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, which we see as a necessary precursor to getting this initiative moving forward in a positive manner.”

He said there are many high tech businesses that see the importance of passenger rail service throughout the state.

“The Montana High Tech Business Alliance really sees how there's a connection between business development, economic development and bringing people through our area not only tourists, but also allowing folks in the business community to travel between locations within the state and also regionally without having to get on an airplane or drive which is certainly not productive time if you're trying to accomplish business while you're riding,” he said.

Strohmaier said the last passenger rail car went through the Milwaukee Depot in 1979, and he believes passenger rail service will return to Missoula.