Oregon plans for increased train travel between Eugene and Portland

Oregon is putting together a billion dollar plan to expand the number of trains running between Eugene and Portland. (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - Oregon is putting together a billion dollar plan to expand the number of trains running between Eugene and Portland.

One of the plan's supporters is a very familiar face.

"Eugene has a high interest in rail," former Mayor Kitty Piercy said. "Always has had a high interest in rail."

Piercy is on the Oregon Department of Transportation leadership council that has worked to put the draft together.

"Our deal, as well as the state, is to get people out of their vehicles and give them another choice for going places that they need to go in our state," she said.

ODOT officials say that to get more people to ride the trains, they have to expand the schedule.

Piercy believes the current schedule of 2 round trips daily is not enough.

How about 6?

"If you had 6," Piercy said, "you would not only be able to plan your day better but you could also be sure that if something happened to one, there'd be another one coming."

"This is an incremental improvement," added Jennifer Sellers, ODOT's rail program manager, "where we would go for federal funding, such as the funding that was released in 2018 where the State of Washington received $800 million."

The current ridership on the train route is about 110,000 people, as of 2017.

ODOT predicts that by 2035, with population growth in the Willamette Valley, the ridership could easily hit about 740,000.

The preferred alternative is to use the existing Amtrak route with safety crossing improvements.

"But really what we're gaining is additional service, reliability of service, less passenger/freight train interference," Sellers said.

A train-friendly future for valley residents looking for an alternative.

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