Posted: Jul 25, 2012 5:18 PM by Jamie Leary
Updated: Jul 25, 2012 9:58 PM
A state legislative committee is looking to the Mining City to help carry more coal to proposed ports on the west coast.
State Senator Jim Keane, who sits on the board of the State Energy and Telecommunications interim committee, says the committee recently wrote letters to Montana Rail Link and Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The letters detailed a proposal by committee members to reactivate the old Homestake Pass rail line which ceased operations in 1980.
The proposal came in lieu of discussions to build more ports on the west coast.
Keane says if the new ports come into existence, he believes it would be a great opportunity for Montana and Butte.
"They may need some upgrades but the tracks are already there.... You don't need a permit. Burlington Northern has the right of way. They need to take a look at it and then they need to figure out scheduling. Take a look at the rail yard here [Front Street Station] the capacity sits here and I'd sure like to see it utilized."
Currently some cities are concerned about increased rail traffic. Keane believes activating the Homestake Pass rail line would eliminate concerns of rail traffic and allow for more Montana coal to be distributed to the coast.
"The rail infrastructure would be definitely increased if we could run trains over Homestake pass. It'd be a good deal in taxes for the community and we'd create some jobs here and possibly elevate a potential bottleneck that would exist crossing the Continental Divide out of Helena." says Keane.
Opponents worry about how new ports would affect outlying cities.
The communities of Helena and Missoula have already sent letters to the U.S. Army Corps of engineers asking them to analyze the impact the construction of the ports will have.