The Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority (BSPRA) in Montana will use a $150,000 grant to help plan for passenger rail across the state’s southern tier. Also, MTA Metro-North Railroad unveils its third Heritage Series locomotive, celebrating the commuter railroad’s 40-year history of public service; and Florida’s Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works rolls out free fares on Metrorail and Metrobus services.
BSPRA on Nov. 9 reported landing a $150,000 grant through the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Regional Infrastructure Accelerator (PNWER-RIA). The Pacific Northwest Economic Region received funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau to “continue advancing infrastructure development through its five-state Regional Infrastructure Accelerator,” which includes Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
BSPRA is a subdivision of state government and the largest transportation district in Montana. Formed in 2019 to re-establish passenger rail service across southern Montana, it comprises 20 member counties and ex officio membership of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne tribes, Amtrak, Montana Department of Transportation, and BNSF. Passenger rail service through southern Montana ended 43 years ago with the loss of Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha.
As a grant sub-recipient, BSPRA said it will work with PNWER RIA on the following projects:
- “Research feasibility and economic case for renewing Amtrak small parcel delivery service as an economic driver for rural and tribal communities along the Great Northern (Empire Builder) and North Coast Hiawatha (southern Montana) corridors.
- “Analyze track along the Amtrak Empire Builder corridor to identify small to medium track improvement projects that—if bundled—would co-benefit freight and passenger rail service. Grade separation projects and opportunities for transit-oriented development near passenger rail stations are major areas of focus.
- “Analyze track from Sandpoint, Idaho, to Glendive, Mont., along the proposed Amtrak North Coast Hiawatha route to identify small to medium track improvement projects for enhanced freight and passenger rail service and identify funding opportunities that promote safety and/or economic development opportunities for rural communities and tribal nations.”
BSPRA Chairman Dave Strohmaier said the funds “will further our work both in southern Montana and also along the Empire Builder route, to the benefit of both freight and passenger operations.”
Craftsmen at MTA Metro-North Railroad’s North White Plains, N.Y., shop applied a vinyl wrap to locomotive No. 211 in honor of New York Central, the predecessor railroad that operated on the Hudson and Harlem lines. On Nov. 14, the locomotive was slated to make its debut run on the Hudson Line.
This is the third locomotive to be rebranded as part of the commuter railroad’s Heritage Series, celebrating its 40-year history of public service. The others paid tribute to Conrail and Metro-North’s original color scheme.
“Every new wrapped locomotive seems to look better than the next, which just speaks to the talent of the Metro-North workforce,” Metro-North Railroad President Catherine Rinaldi said. “Rail enthusiasts around the region are excited about the launch of this latest Heritage locomotive, and the first run will be on one of New York Central’s original routes, making for an even more scenic morning ride down the Hudson.”
Additional locomotives will be wrapped in the heritage designs, according to Metro-North, which noted that the wrapped locomotives will remain in service for the foreseeable future.
Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works on Nov. 13 launched the Better Bus Network (BBN), a community-led redesign of its bus system to provide “quicker connections for residents to major employers, educational institutions and healthcare providers—in 45 minutes or less.” Through the end of the year, the Florida county reported, riders can try transit for free across modes—Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroConnect on-demand shared ride service.
“Riders are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the new network and map their commutes by using our trip planner at miamidade.gov/BetterBus,” the county said.
The 25-mile dual track Metrorail system provides service to Miami International Airport (MIA) and runs from Kendall through South Miami, Coral Gables and downtown Miami; to the Civic Center/Jackson Memorial Hospital area; and to Brownsville, Liberty City, Hialeah and Medley in northwest Miami-Dade, with connections to Broward and Palm Beach counties at Historic Overtown Lyric Theatre station (transfer to Brightline), MIA (Orange Line) and Tri-Rail (Green Line) stations.