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Over the river and through the woods...

Montana Passenger Rail Summit 2020

On Thursday, September 17, over 300 people from around the state, region, and country gathered virtually for the inaugural Montana Passenger Rail Summit. Summit attendees included elected officials, business leaders, students, passenger rail experts, environmental organizations, public health experts, and transportation enthusiasts.

Watch: View the Summit online below.

View the Summit Agenda

View the Presenters' Slides


Elaine Clegg

Council President, City of Boise, Idaho

Elaine Clegg has served on the Boise City Council since 2004 and currently serves as council president. During her tenure she has focused on land use, transportation and sustainability. Clegg led expansion of transit service frequency and hours of service on key corridors in Boise and has long worked to again use the rail corridor running through the valley for passenger service. Clegg also helped lead efforts for Boise to adopt a sustainability plan and energy reduction target, a master streets map, and roadway connectivity measurement. She’s been instrumental in completing the integration of transportation and land use via corridor master plans and extension of the bicycle and pedestrian network citywide. She serves as chair of Boise’s Metropolitan Planning Organization Board (COMPASS), as vice chair of the Valley Regional Transit Authority Board and on the National League of Cities Transportation and Infrastructure policy committee.

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Rob Eaton

Director, Government Affairs and State Supported Service, Amtrak

Rob Eaton joined Amtrak in 2010 as director of Government Affairs-West and is primarily responsible for developing, maintaining and advancing relationships with local and state elected officials, as well as the staff of the federal delegations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and British Columbia. Rob also is a member of the State Supported Service Business Development Line and is responsible for the relationship with the Washington and Oregon departments of transportation, which sponsor the Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, B.C. Prior to Amtrak, Rob served as a councilmember and mayor of Leavenworth, Washington, and worked with BNSF and Amtrak to restore passenger rail service to the community and with local, state and federal partners to construct a new rail station.

Charlie Hamilton

Consultant, All Aboard Washingon

Charlie Hamilton is a consultant to All Aboard Washington. He specializes in managing AAWA’s communications, donations, memberships and events. He is the founder and co-owner of CHCS Consulting, which provides research, organizational development, publicity, marketing and website services to a diverse national client base of businesses and nonprofit organizations. In addition, he writes about tech subjects and advocates for improved passenger rail and transit services. He holds a Ph. D. in communication from the University of Maryland, and has a certificate in organizational development and training from Georgetown University. Charlie is a former board member of All Aboard Washington, the Capitol Hill (Seattle) Chamber of Commerce, Rail Passengers Association, and other community groups.

Jordan Hess

Councilman, City of Missoula, Montana

Director, Associated Students of the University of Montana’s Office of Transportation

Jordan Hess is serving his second term on the Missoula City Council, where he chairs the Land Use and Planning Committee. He represents Ward 2 in Missoula, which includes working-class, historic railroad neighborhoods as well as newer subdivisions on the western edge of town.

Jordan also serves as the Director of the Associated Students of the University of Montana’s Office of Transportation. Funded exclusively by student fees and managed by a student board of directors, ASUM operates the UDASH bus system — one of the few student-run transit systems in the country. As an arm of student government, ASUM is uniquely positioned to advocate for responsible urban design and campus facilities and frequently advocates for bike, pedestrian and transit amenities in local transportation projects. Hess is passionate about improving transportation options for all Missoulians, promoting access to affordable housing, and focusing on growth and economic development in the heart of Missoula.

Jim Mathews

President and CEO, Rail Passengers Association

Jim Mathews is president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association in Washington, D.C., a nationwide nonprofit transportation advocacy group. A lifelong train traveler with a deep-rooted vision for a robust national passenger train network, Mathews believes rail can be an economic engine in the communities it serves, a potentially transformative mode in an ever-changing transportation landscape and the most environmentally responsible way to meet current and future transportation challenges. Mathews also serves on the National Advisory Committee on Travel and Tourism Infrastructure, and works with the Federal Railroad Administration on several of its initiatives. He also served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee for six years, including two years leading as chairman.

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Roger Millar

Secretary of Transportation, Washington state

As secretary of the Washington Department of Transportation, Roger Millar oversees an agency that is the steward of a complex, multimodal transportation system and is responsible for ensuring that people and goods move safely and efficiently. Millar is an experienced land use and transportation engineer, planner and program manager with an international reputation for innovative approaches to conservation and development. Throughout his career, he has planned and implemented transportation systems that are not ends unto themselves but, rather, the means toward economic vitality, environmental stewardship, social equity, public health and aesthetic quality. His work on the Portland Streetcar and the Glenwood Springs to Aspen Bus Rapid Transit system provided communities nationwide with new modal tools. His Complete Streets leadership helped create a national movement for transportation systems that are safe, convenient and pleasant for all users, regardless of how they choose to travel.

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Andrea Olsen

House Representative, HD 100, Montana

Representative Andrea Olsen is serving her third term in the Montana Legislature. She serves on the House Business and Labor Committee; Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committee; Agriculture Committee (Vice-Chair); and the House Interim Committee on Transportation. A fifth-generation Montanan, Andrea was born, raised and educated in Missoula, graduating from the University of Montana School of Law in June. Her 30-year law career has been predominately advocating for human rights, which she continues to advocate for in the Montana Legislature. Olsen has served as legal counsel for the Montana Office of Consumer Protection, staff attorney representing students at UM, attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in their Tribal Legal Services Program, and staff attorney for the State of Montana Mental Health Board of Visitors.

Beth Osborne

Director, Transportation for America

Beth Osborne is the current director of Transportation for America. She was previously at the U.S. Department of Transportation, where she served as the acting assistant secretary for transportation policy and the deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy. At DOT, Osborne managed the TIGER Discretionary Grant program, the secretary’s livability initiative, the development of the administration’s surface transportation authorization proposal and the implementation of MAP-21. Before joining DOT, Beth worked for Delaware Sen. Tom Carper as an adviser for transportation, trade and labor policy, as the policy director for Smart Growth America and as legislative director for environmental policy at the Southern Governors’ Association. She began her career in Washington, DC, in the House of Representatives working as a legislative assistant for Pennsylvania Rep. Ron Klink and as legislative director for Washington Rep. Brian Baird.

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John-Robert Smith

Co-chair and senior policy adviser, Transportation for America

John-Robert Smith currently serves as chairman of Transportation for America, where he advises on strategy, capacity building and national outreach. He became chairman in 2012 after leading Reconnecting America as president and CEO. He previously served as mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, for 16 years. During his tenure, he facilitated public-private partnerships that resulted in more than $430 million in funding for infrastructure projects that bolstered the economy and residents’ quality of life. A recognized authority on public and private transportation and development funding, he guided the development and construction of the Southeast’s first multi-modal transportation center, Meridian Union Station. Smith is also a senior policy adviser to DC-based Smart Growth America and has served on the boards for Amtrak and the National Forum on the Future of Passenger Rail.

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John Spain

Vice chairman, Southern Rail Commission

John Spain is the executive vice president of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation and also serves as the vice chairman of the Southern Rail Commission, where he has worked to restore passenger rail service along the Gulf Coast, including between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Spain previously was the managing director of The Powell Group, a private holding company with 13 subsidiaries, including radio stations, commercial timber, rice milling and international power plants and real-estate development. He started his professional career in the field of broadcasting and worked at WBRZ-TV, the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge, for 23 years, where he served as its news director and station manager.

Dave Strohmaier

Commissioner, Missoula County, Montana

Dave Strohmaier was elected to the Missoula Board of County Commissioners in 2016 and currently chairs the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee. From 2006 to 2013, Dave represented Ward 1 on the Missoula City Council, where he chaired both the Public Safety and Health and Conservation committees. Since his time on the City Council, Dave has been an outspoken advocate for sustainable transportation and passenger rail. In 2019, he spearheaded an effort to establish the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority as a means by which counties in Montana could collaborate on restoration of passenger rail service across the southern tier of the state. He also has actively participated in county efforts to address climate change, promote the arts, strengthen relations with tribal government, and steward cultural resources.

Jason Stuart

Executive Director, Dawson County Economic Development Council

Jason Stuart has served as executive director of the Dawson County Economic Development Council since 2018. He also serves on the board of the Glendive Convention and Visitors Bureau and has taught at Dawson Community College as adjunct professor of history for the past five years. Prior to his work for the DCEDC, he worked for five years as a reporter for the Glendive Ranger-Review. Originally from northeast Louisiana, Jason moved to Glendive in early 2013. Before moving to Montana, he worked for three years in the Washington, D.C., office of former Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter, where he served as legislative aide for NASA policy, as a legislative correspondent for a number of policy areas, including transportation, and as director of constituent communications.

Paul Tuss

Executive Director, Bear Paw Development Corporation

Paul Tuss of Havre is in his 20th year as executive director of Bear Paw Development Corporation, Montana’s longest-serving economic development district that covers 17,665 square miles, five counties and two Indian Reservations in northern Montana. He previously worked for five years as executive director of a countywide economic development organization in Glacier County. Paul has served on the boards of numerous statewide organizations, including the Montana Economic Developers Association, Montana State Employers Council, Montana Nonprofit Association, Montana Economic Development Advisory Council, Montana Cooperative Development Center and the Montana Tourism Advisory Council. He has also served on the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education since 2011 and was recently appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock as a member of the Montana Climate Solutions Council.