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Oregon studying improvements to passenger rail service

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A study is underway to look for ways to improve passenger rail service that serves urban communities from Portland to Eugene-Springfield. A series of six traditional and online open houses recently wrapped up in the study area, a 125-mile segment that is part of the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor stretching between Eugene and Vancouver, B.C.

ODOT is studying how improved passenger rail service can address increased travel demands, especially as funding for highway projects is in decline.

Current Amtrak Cascades service between Eugene and Portland includes two round trips per day, a two hour and 35 minute trip each way. Annual Amtrak Cascades ridership has grown significantly over the past five years. Over the next 25 years, the population of the Willamette Valley is expected to grow by approximately 25 percent and freight volume in the state is expected to grow by 60 percent. This will result in travel demands that exceed existing freight and passenger rail capacity.

The study will be used to help decide on a general passenger rail route and evaluate options for train frequency, trip time and improving on-time performance.

“In order to position Oregon for federal funding to improve passenger rail, the state must complete a study, called a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement,” said Jyll Smith, project spokesperson. “We are currently scoping, which identifies issues to be addressed. This is an early step in the process but an important opportunity for public input.”

The Oregon Passenger Rail study is divided into three general phases: Understand, Evaluate, and Recommend. Currently, the study is in the Understand phase, known as ‘Scoping’ under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Its purpose is to identify issues and ensure an appropriate range of alternatives will be considered through the study.

ODOT wants to know what is important to you. There are many ways to learn about the project and provide your comments:

Submit a comment online
(through October 31)


« Back to the September 2012 edition