Tuesday is a key decision point for plans to set up high-speed passenger rail service in the Interstate-5 corridor.

The Oregon Passenger Rail Leadership Council meets at 1 p.m. in Salem to discuss which routes merit further study.

The council will consider four routes: The red route follows Interstate 5, the blue route follows Highway 99E , the yellow route follows Highway 99W and the purple route runs between Highway 99W and Highway 99E.

All four routes run through Albany, which currently is a stop for both the Amtrak Cascades and Coast Starlight lines. Only the yellow route runs through Corvallis.

A preliminary staff recommendation of Oregon Department of Transportation officials favors advancing the red and blue lines and eliminating the purple and yellow alternatives.

The final decision, however, rests with the Leadership Council, which includes among its 20 members State Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis and Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa.

Staff favored the blue for its low costs and the red line for its shorter travel time, while expressing concerns about higher travel times, the number of at-grade crossings and the impact on residential parcels of the yellow alternative.

Officials said the purple route replicated the blue route in terms of service but had higher construction costs.

ODOT held five open houses in November to discuss the rail project with residents. One of the events was held at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany.

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

This evaluation phase of the project costs $10 million and is a combination of ODOT ($5.8 million) and federal ($4.2 million) funds.

No funding for future phases has been identified, and construction is years, if not decades in the future.

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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