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MRL moves train cars out of Bitterroot storage

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There are fewer stationary train cars along the highway in Ravalli County. Montana Rail Link moved 113 empty coal cars out of the Bitterroot and through the heart of Missoula Thursday on tracks that are rarely used.

MRL spokesman Jim Lewis says the move stopped traffic at each intersection for about eight minutes.

One driver asked NBC Montana why the move didn’t happen in the middle of the night when there is less traffic. Lewis said it’s a safety concern, because each intersection had to be manned by an employee.

There’s a lot of preparation to make the move safe.

A worker at a car lot along the tracks said he saw crews out plowing the tracks Wednesday to get them ready.

“The last couple years they cut (the tracks’ use) down -- they never use them. I thought they were closed permanently ever since they did the trail. But recently they came and knocked on the door and said that (we needed) to move (our) cars. So we scrambled to get all the cars moved,” said Seven Hobbs, an employee at Jolly Car Werks.

He said the vehicles were parked too close to the track and had to be moved 4 feet away.

Lewis said they are moving the train cars now because the demand for coal has increased.

The cars are not owned by MRL, just stored by the company. Some will be scrapped, some put into use across the country and others put in storage in another MRL location.

Lewis said a few years ago MRL was storing as many as 600 cars on rail line in the Bitterroot. After this move there will be 168 cars left in Ravalli County, but the company plans to move them to an area that is less noticeable.

They had received complaints from some people about the stationary cars being an eyesore.

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