Corvallis residents came out in force Monday night to encourage the City Council to make sure the city gets a stop on the planned upgrade of passenger rail traffic between Portland and Eugene.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is studying options for improved passenger service between the Columbia River and the Eugene-Springfield area, a 125-mile segment.

The stretch is part of the federally designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor, which has been the subject of high-speed passenger rail planning for more than 30 years.

Eight people spoke during visitor time in favor of ensuring that the trains run through Corvallis, with more than 30 people in the downtown fire station standing in support of those testifying.

In addition, a petition with more than 1,800 signatures was presented to the council.

Shauna Wilson mentioned four benefits: affordable transportation for students, a benefit to current businesses, an assist in attracting new business and that passenger rail service would help keep Corvallis a “green community.”

As a result of public testimony councilors tacked on three new components to a resolution they were considering on the project.

Added was language urging officials to consider running the line through Corvallis and make sure that the city was considered in environmental and traffic studies that must be completed before work on the line can begin.

Even backers of the plan admitted that Corvallis is a long shot to get a stop. Current passenger traffic bypasses Corvallis and only one of the four current alternatives being considered would come through the town.

“Corvallis has little chance,” said Larry Plotkin, “but this is a mistake. We need to be the squeaky wheel on this one. This will improve the quality of life here for the next 100 years.”

ODOT currently is in the “evaluate” stage of its process. Officials hope to establish a smaller group of alternatives to be discussed by the end this year, with a draft environmental impact statement due by the end of 2014.

A final route selection is tentatively set for mid-2015, with the final draft EIS due in early 2016.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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