BUTTE - Saying those in Butte’s tourism business were happy to learn a tram could be built to take people to the Our Lady of the Rockies statue is an understatement.
“Can you tell I’m excited? It’s been a long time coming, it’s just been such a long time coming,” said Butte Visitor and Convention Bureau Executive Director Maria Pochervina.
The Federal Highway Administration just approved the building of a tram across Interstate 15, which would take riders up to the monument on the East Ridge overlooking Butte. It was a major hurdle in a project that had been in the works for 20 years.
“The naysayers would say, ‘It’s never going to happen.’ This kind of gives it a breath of fresh air that there is an opportunity, that there is a chance it could happen,” said Chad Harrington with the Our Lady of the Rockies Board.
The tram’s base would be built in a 12-acre lot off Continental Drive that was donated to the Our Lady of the Rockies group. The tram would head north to a transfer station that would take riders over the highway and up to the statue.
The tram would be a more efficient way of getting visitors up to the monument, which currently is done by bus along a dirt road.
“It’s kind of a commitment to go do that. It takes four hours round trip by the time you start and stop. This is a 15 minute ride up and a 15 minute ride down and you can spend the day up there if you like,” said Harrington.
The group must now seek donations and sponsorships for the construction, something those who depend on tourism would like to see happen.
“So many of those men and women who contributed to getting Our Lady not only put together, but to see this happen where people will be able to visit her on the East Ridge is truly amazing,” said Pochervina.
The project is estimated at $12 million and it will probably be a lot more than that, but they believe this tram project will give an economic lift to the city.
“It’s going to impact the restaurants, the hotels, the gas stations—you know, it’s going to touch on everything tourism touches on,” said Harrington.
If the funding comes in, the group said construction could begin by next spring.