By JOHN KIRK VINCENT/Montana State News
The delayed construction of a railroad stretching from Miles City to Ashland has ignited tensions within a local Montana community. Current plans for the Tongue River Railroad calls for it to run through an Amish settlement east of Billings—passing through farmland and within 100 feet of the Borntreger family’s back door.
“We can’t live that close to a railroad,” said Levi Borntreger, whose family moved to the West in the late 90’s because of the population and agricultural opportunity. The Colstrip Alternative proposal would dissolve Borntreger’s idea of rural life.
This plan—following several rejected motions—would turn attention from the oil boom. Coal would continue to grow as a resource in Montana and foreign markets. Economists have projected the building of a railway and mine would produce many construction jobs and permanent mining positions.
BNSF Railway and Arch Coal—majority co-owners of the railroad—rely on these figures to persuade residents. A BNSF spokeswoman commented on the operation, suggesting a mine “could provide a tremendous boost to Eastern Montana’s economy.”
Each of the companies’ mission statements outlines a promise to support local communities first. The Borntreger’s are among many families who are unconvinced the construction of the railroad is in their best interest.
The Tongue River project is currently under federal review.
-Edited by Autumn Toennis