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State, feds give $4M for Montana railroad fix

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- A flood-damaged railroad that serves central Montana grain farmers will receive $4 million for repairs, state and federal officials announced Thursday.

Portions of the 84-mile Central Montana Railroad were severely damaged in 2011, when high waters buckled a trestle over the Judith River. That forced farmers in the Denton area to pay more to ship their grain to market by truck.

Fixing the century-old bridge and re-opening the rail link will benefit 1,900 agriculture businesses in a three-county area, officials said.

The repairs will be paid for by a $1 million federal grant and $3 million from the state departments of Transportation and Commerce.

The money was announced at a Thursday event in Lewistown by Gov. Steve Bullock and Matt Erskine with the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Bullock said in a statement that the nonprofit railroad provides vital competition in grain transportation in Montana and gives grain farmers in and around Denton a way to get their product to market.

Federal officials said the Department of Commerce grant is part of $200 million provided by Congress to help communities that suffered disasters in 2011.