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Contact: Public Affairs Department, (202) 482-4085
Thursday, May 30, 2013

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $1 Million to Repair Critical Montana Commercial Rail Transportation Link

Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Senators Max Baucus & John Tester Applaud Major Commercial Infrastructure Investment

WASHINGTON — Acting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank today announced a $1 million Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to the Montana Department of Transportation and Central Montana Rail, Inc., to repair the Judith River trestle bridge, a critical commercial rail transportation link that suffered severe damage from flooding in 2011. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Matt Erskine participated in a city-organized community grant announcement event in Lewiston, Montana, today, along with other federal and local officials.

“The Obama administration is committed to helping communities impacted by natural disasters rebound and rebuild,” said Acting Secretary Blank. “The EDA grant announced today will help Montana restore critical infrastructure that is vital to the economy of numerous agricultural communities in the region.”

“CMR’s 84 miles of railroad are incredibly important to the heart of Montana,” said Governor Steve Bullock. “They support good jobs, provide vital competition in rail transportation, and give producers and other businesses in the Denton area a viable shipping option. When you combine the $1 million EDA grant with the $3 million in state funds we’re making available for this project through the Montana Departments of Transportation and Commerce, that’s a substantial investment in jobs and the Denton area’s economic future.”

Senator Baucus has been a tireless advocate for the Economic Development Administration, leveraging his position as Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Sub-committee with jurisdiction over EDA to fight for Montana priorities. Baucus has championed EDA reauthorization efforts, leading as an original co-sponsor on multiple reauthorization bills. In 2005, Baucus led a bipartisan coalition to stop a plan to eliminate the Economic Development Administration.

“Infrastructure is the lifeblood of our economy in Montana and projects like this are why we’ve fought so hard over the years to keep the Economic Development Administration alive. Although the 2011 floods are long gone, many Montana communities are still dealing with the devastating impacts,” said Senator Baucus. “This investment in Lewistown will go a long way toward moving Montana’s world-class agriculture products to market while supporting good-paying jobs for the long haul.”

“Restoring the Judith River Trestle Bridge is welcome news,” said Senator Tester. “This bridge is a critical economic tie that connects central Montana’s world-class farmers and ranchers with buyers in Great Falls and beyond.”

The project supports long-term business development by rebuilding infrastructure needed by small business owners and farmers to bring their goods to market. According to grantee estimates, reopening the rail link will help more than 1,900 agricultural production businesses located in the three-county area of central Montana remain competitive and will directly lead to the retention of 28 jobs.

The 100-year-old Judith River trestle bridge carries a single freight line over the Judith River and provides the only cost-effective means of shipping agricultural products from numerous small communities. Repairs include rebuilding concrete pier foundations, restoring steel towers and bridge girders, and making related upgrades that will improve the load-carrying capacity of the rail line, as well as providing protection from any similar damage that may be caused by future flooding of the river.

This project is part of a $200 million appropriation made by Congress to EDA to help communities that received a major disaster designation in fiscal year 2011 with long-term economic recovery and infrastructure support.

Within the context of the administration’s National Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF) (PDF), EDA serves as the Coordinating Agency on behalf of the Department of Commerce for the Economic Recovery Support Function (RSF) to coordinate the activities of a diverse group of partner agencies supporting recovery in disaster-impacted communities. The activities consist primarily of improved information sharing and the leveraging of existing resources to make a positive impact for communities affected by disasters.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.