ALBANY — Corvallis residents showed up in force at a meeting Thursday to learn more about a proposed Oregon Passenger Rail project to run from Portland to Eugene — specifically whether it will provide service for them as well.
The meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. at Linn-Benton Community College was organized by the Oregon Department of Transportation as one of several informal informational meetings to answer questions and seek comment regarding placement of stations, routes and other basics of a plan that is years from implementation.
ODOT is studying options to provide “improved” passenger rail service along the 125-mile segment between Eugene-Springfield and Portland. Results from its study will determine a general passenger rail route as well as options for train frequency, trip time and on-time performance.
The ultimate decision on the project will be in the hands of the Federal Railroad Administration. Both federal and state money will fund the project. The current planning stages are being funded through a $4.2 million federal grant plus another $5.8 million from ODOT.
Any constructions could be decades away, but the idea has drawn public interest in an areas whose population is expected to grow 35 percent in the next 25 years, with freight load increased by 60 percent.
“These meetings are important to the process,” said Jill Pearson, stakeholder engagement strategist for ODOT. “We are urging public input.”
So far, four different route
alternatives have been selected: using the current rail Amtrak Cascades route, laying new track, new station construction, bypassing some current stations and connecting new and existing rail.
Similar open houses have been held in Eugene and Salem. Meetings are planned for Oregon City and Portland next week.
Bob Heald of Corvallis was among many who came to Albany to state a concern already circulating in his city:
“I am concerned that Corvallis could get bypassed,” Heald said.
“I’ve heard one suggestion about some sort of bus system, but it would need to be cost-effective and run on time. What comes from this could affect Corvallis development.”
Michael Campbell and Jessica Zibnack also were on a fact-finding mission from Corvallis, but they said they were impressed with the knowledge of the ODOT people they talked with.
“We want to find out how they plan to move people,” Campbell said.
“We’re interested in finding how they propose to encourage people to use a public transportation system like this and how it will impact the environment.”
The format of the open house type meeting had about 60 visitors milling about during the two-hour meeting, moving to different stations to study various pieces of information and proposed routes.
ODOT staff were on hand to answer any questions concerning the posters that described the program. Forms were available for the public to make written suggestions.
For more information or to provide input online, see www.OregonPassenger