New impact study for Oregon passenger proposal

Written by Railway Age Staff
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Oregon DOT logo on jointly operated Amtrak Cascades train, Portland, Ore. Railway Age photo by Stuart Chirls.

Oregon after years of study has released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for proposed passenger service upgrades between Eugene and Portland.

The plan would improve the frequency, convenience, speed and reliability of intercity passenger rail service between Eugene-Springfield to the south and the Portland urban area, part of the federally designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor.

The milestone DEIS released October 19 by the Oregon Department of Transportationdescribes why the project is being proposed and the project alternatives. It examines the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of those alternatives. The two “build” alternatives were evaluated in the DEIS and both accommodate increased passenger rail service over the next 20 years:

  • Alternative 1 follows the existing Amtrak Cascades passenger rail route with track, signal and communication improvements.
  • Alternative 2 is primarily a new route between Springfield and Oregon City along Interstate 5, an existing freight rail line and Interstate 205. It would follow the existing rail route north of Oregon City.
  • The No Build Alternative follows the existing Amtrak route but has no additional service or improvements.

The DOT said after extensive public and agency outreach and analysis, it and the Federal Railroad Administration have identified Alternative 1 as the Preferred Alternative.

The state agency is now accepting comments on the DEIS, and has scheduled five public open houses for review and comment. An online open house is slated between Nov. 28 and Dec. 18 at

Following the public comment period, ODOT and FRA will select a Final Preferred Alternative and will document that decision in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD lays the groundwork for the possibility of expanding Oregon’s Passenger Rail Program, opening the path to future investments and expansion of service on the route. Improved service is forecast to facilitate a near-doubling of ridership by 2035 and would provide an efficient, safe, equitable and affordable travel alternative.

The state DOT and FRA anticipate publishing the Final EIS in 2019.

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