Livingston Railroad Grade-Separation Project


Livingston is a rural and vibrant community in southwestern Montana. Its population is estimated at 7,302,[1] but this number can increase by nearly one-third during summer months. Livingston began as a major railroad hub for Northern Pacific but quickly evolved into the first gateway for Yellowstone National Park, located 55 miles south. Notable geographic features for Livingston include the Yellowstone River, its proximity to National Forests and Yellowstone Park, and rugged surrounding mountains (Figure 1). Today, although Livingston is known for blue-ribbon fly-fishing, tourism, agriculture, authors, visual artists, and scenery, it is still a railroad town and is the present home to Montana Rail Link’s (MRL) repair shop.

As a major energy supplier, MRL transports petroleum products from the Powder River and Bakken to refineries in Billings, Montana, then 115 miles west through Livingston and onto the Pacific Northwest, among other destinations. On a given day, 20 to 23 trains travel through Livingston to transport coal, asphalt, petroleum coke, gasoline, diesel, etc. There are only three railroad crossings in Livingston, a town that is approximately equally divided north and south by rail lines; only one of these crossings is grade-separated, and it is prone to flooding. Further, interstate traffic on I-90 is commonly rerouted directly through Livingston due to extreme winds created by our surrounding mountains, which form a dangerous wind tunnel that directly impacts traffic and movement of freight. Considering the traffic congestion caused by only have three railway crossings, a potential derailment in Livingston is of significant concern in that this could shut off energy supplies to the Pacific Northwest. The objectives of this proposed project are to mitigate traffic congestion and related hazards, and improve Livingston’s existing multimodal transportation network, access to housing, public safety, and job creation. This proposed project has been planned in coordination with first responders, public service entities, the hospitality industry, and the school district. Our proposal is consistent with National and State transportation goals as well as our local growth policy.

The railroad underpass project proposed herein will help overcome transportation obstacles, allow for economic growth, and increase connectivity, health, and safety. Specifically, construction of the proposed underpass will shift 5,200 vehicles per day from the nearest at-grade crossing by 2027, improve emergency response time by at least 60 seconds, and enhance connectivity within the community while increasing access the I-90 business corridor and the growing northwest region of Livingston. With $3,754,325 in local, State, Federal, and private funding committed to this project since 2007, environmental documentation complete and design plans 95% final, construction is ready to begin as soon as the last piece of funding is secured. To fund the remaining match, Livingston will pursue mechanisms such as a Special Improvement District (SID), General Obligation Debt Financing, gas tax, and other avenues to lessen the per-household impact. In order to complete this project, we are requesting FASTLANE grant assistance totaling $5,345,418 million to make this project a reality and transform our community and region.

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