Connect with us

Local News

Massive step toward reactivation of the old North Coast Hiawatha rail route



Bismarck, North Dakota – Other Amtrak train routes passed through Montana and North Dakota besides the Empire Builder. People in the southern portion of the two states were also able to ride the rails thanks to the North Coast Hiawatha route. Although the route has been closed for more than 40 years, proponents of passenger rail are working to have it reopened.

The North Coast Hiawatha route, which followed Interstates 94 and 90 through North Dakota and Montana, offered passenger rail service from Chicago to Seattle in the 1970s. Vice-chairman Jason Stuart of the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority said that in addition to lengthy drives, residents in this area need more options for getting to their destinations. This includes the reinstatement of the line.

“We need that ability to improve our quality of life for our communities so that our residents have the same accessibility as residents in other parts of the country, to get to where they need to go safely, comfortably, and affordably,” said Stuart.

The news last week by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) that the previous route has been chosen for Corridor ID money greatly bolstered the possibility of reinstatement. It will be developed as a long-term passenger rail project because it is a part of the program.

“We are a rural state. Connecting businesses and families together is important, and if we can do it by rail, it makes perfect sense,” said Tester.

The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority can now start planning and developing, but there is still a long way to go before Amtrak moves south, despite the news. The Federal Railroad Administration’s long-distance study, which is scheduled for release somewhere in the summer of next year, will be the next significant milestone.

“I’m certainly very confident from everything the FRA has told us and that we’ve seen from them so far, that this route is also going to be right at or near the top of their list for the routes that the FRA and USDOT are going to recommend to congress and say ‘hey, you need to fund the restoration of this,” said Stuart.

According to Stuart, the suggested route would feature twice-daily service in each direction. He continues, saying that he wants the Empire Builder, which crosses the Montana Hi-Line, to remain intact as the North Coast Hiawatha line works to further enhance services throughout the area.

The majority of the cities along Interstates 90 and 94, including Fargo, Bismarck, Dickinson, Glendive, and Billings, are among the proposed stops.