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022719-adh-nws-Stranded Amtrak02a-my (copy)

A Union Pacific engine pulls Amtrak's Coast Startlight passenger train into the Albany Station in this file photo from February. 

The Corvallis-Amtrak Connector shuttle service will keep rolling until an expanded version of the Coast to Valley regional transit system is up and running, thanks to an infusion of fresh state funding.

Corvallis transportation services supervisor Lisa Scherf, who is coordinating plans for the expanded Coast to Valley Express service, said the Oregon Department of Transportation has provided $30,000 in bridge funding to allow the Corvallis-Amtrak Connector to remain in service beyond Monday, when the two-year-old program was scheduled to come screeching to a halt.

“I mentioned it in a meeting, and the (ODOT) director of rail and public transit said, ‘Let’s talk,’” Scherf said on Tuesday. “He was able to have his staff find some funding.”

The Corvallis-Amtrak Connector, which began as a one-year pilot program in August 2017, operates Thursday-Monday and most holidays. It makes five runs a day between several pickup points in Corvallis and the train station in Albany, with arrival and departure times aligned with the Amtrak schedule. The fare is $5 each way.

Benton County had been covering the shuttle’s operating costs since the initial state funding ran out but could no longer afford to do so and announced last week that the service would be discontinued.

The additional ODOT money should buy enough time to ensure that users of the Amtrak shuttle aren’t left in the lurch while waiting for expanded Coast to Valley service to start in October, when regional transit systems are slated to start receiving funding from the $5.3 billion transportation package approved by the 2017 Legislature.

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The Coast to Valley Express, part of the regional Northwest Connector Network, operates seven days a week. The bus line makes four runs a day between Corvallis and Newport, with two runs a day between Albany and Newport. Scherf said the expanded service scheduled to start in October will have as many as eight runs a day between the valley and the coast, including more daily runs to Albany.

“The plan is to try to double the service,” Scherf said. “We will have at least four, maybe five or more buses to Albany every day.”

The basic fare is $10 for a one-way trip between the valley and the coast, or less for short hops. A ride from Philomath to Corvallis, for instance, costs $1, while the fare from Corvallis to Albany costs $2.

Additional bus service between Corvallis and Albany is available via the Linn-Benton Loop.

Scherf said transit planners are looking at ways to improve service on the Coast to Valley Express by possibly changing some bus stops and adjusting schedules to better align with passenger train departure and arrival times. She wasn’t sure whether the fares would change.

“We know some things now about which stops are most popular, which times of day are most popular, and we can use that information in expanding the Coast to Valley service,” she said.

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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