At its December 8 meeting, the Oregon Passenger Rail Leadership Council reached agreement on the recommended preferred alternative to be carried forward into the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).
The study area encompasses the Eugene-Springfield urban area and the Portland-Vancouver urban area and is part of the federally-designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor. Under the guidance of the Leadership Council, the Oregon Department of Transportation is leading an environmental review process.
The Leadership Council, led by Co-Chairs Mayor Kitty Piercy and John Russell, agreed with the project team that Alternative 1 is the preferred option to improve inter-city passenger rail over the next two decades, as it provides more frequent and reliable rail service in a cost effective way. The recommended preferred alternative follows the existing alignment on the Union Pacific Railroad line and increases Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger train service between Eugene and Portland from two daily round trips to six daily round trips over the next 20 years. This planned increase in passenger rail service in Oregon will also match scheduled train service north of Portland Union Station into Washington and British Columbia. The recommendation was developed over years of technical analysis, robust public engagement and Leadership Council deliberation.
The recommendation is a major milestone and paves the way for Oregon to compete for future federal dollars when they become available, such as the recently approved FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act transportation bill.
Echoing many of the group members, Leadership Council member Representative Nancy Nathanson wrote: “Alternative 1 is the best opportunity to advance passenger rail in Oregon. It provides a cost-effective choice that will increase the reliability and frequency of rail service near population centers in the Willamette Valley, with shorter travel times and an ability to implement incrementally when funding becomes available. While true high speed rail is not precluded from future consideration, Alternative 1 has the support of our federal partners at the Federal Railroad Administration and is something Oregon should support building.”