Purpose and Background

The Oregon Department of Transportation completed its analysis for improved passenger rail service between Eugene-Springfield and Portland – a 125 mile segment. This segment is part of the federally designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

The results of the analysis are documented in a Draft Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) currently under review by the Federal Railroad Administration. This environmental review helps ODOT and FRA make important decisions, including selecting the general rail alignment and communities where stations would be located. We will also determine several service characteristics, such as the number of daily trips, travel time objectives and the technologies to be used - for example, whether the trains will be powered by electric or diesel‐electric engines. The project includes a public involvement strategy to ensure that your voice is heard in the decision‐making process.

Why do we need this project?

Over the next 25 years, the population of the Willamette Valley is expected to grow by approximately 35 percent, reaching 3.6 million by 2035. During the same period, freight volume is expected to grow by 60 percent. These increases will result in rail service demand that exceeds Oregon's available freight and passenger rail capacity in the Willamette Valley.

Rail improvements are needed to provide additional passenger and freight rail capacity and to provide more reliable trains, more frequent trains and shorter travel times between Eugene and Portland. Current passenger rail service runs on private freight rail lines owned by Union Pacific Railroad and BNSF. Read the Purpose and Need Statement.

Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement

ODOT is conducting the Oregon Passenger Rail EIS as part of a federal requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. NEPA requires that we analyze the environmental impacts that a project might have before making a final decision because federal funds are being used.

The EIS evaluates a range of reasonable alternatives for improving passenger rail service between Eugene and Portland. Alternatives under consideration include taking no action (No Build), as well as multiple build alternatives between Eugene and Portland. The study also evaluates different levels of rail service, including train frequency, trip time and on-time performance.

The Draft Tier 1 EIS that addresses broad corridor-level issues and chooses one recommended general alignment for passenger rail service, called a “preferred alternative”. Later projects may be necessary to further analyze site-specific proposals in greater detail based on the decisions made in Tier 1.

How will the project be funded?

Funding for the Oregon Passenger Rail project comes from a combination of state and federal funds. ODOT received $4.2 million in federal grants to continue planning efforts for improved passenger rail service between Eugene and Portland. ODOT is adding $5.8 million to the project. The Oregon Passenger Rail EIS is required in order for Oregon to compete for future federal and state construction funding for the high-speed rail corridor between Eugene and Portland.

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