Oregon.gov

Welcome

The Oregon Department of Transportation is studying ways to improve inter-city passenger rail service between the Portland urban area and the Eugene-Springfield urban area.

The project team has completed an initial analysis of how the project route alternatives would affect a variety of community and environmental resources. The team also looked at the engineering requirements, transportation impacts, cost, and potential benefits associated with each alternative. Based on this initial assessment the team is recommending that Alternative 1 be carried forward as the Preferred Alternative in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). At this online open house, you will learn more about the recommended Preferred Alternative.

Comments are no longer being collected through this online open house, but you may submit comments anytime at OregonPassengerRail.org.

This online event provides information about the project and opportunities for comments. We invite you to explore this information and give us your feedback.

¿Hablas español? Ver información sobre las alternativas aquí.

Open House Stations

Get caught up on what the project will do, and how it follows a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
Learn about the Alternatives being studied in the DEIS.
Learn about the evaluation criteria findings that were used to evaluate the alternatives.
Learn about which evaluation criteria results stand out the most when comparing Alternatives 1 and 2.
Learn about next steps and ways to stay involved.

Background

This project is studying options to improve passenger rail service between Eugene-Springfield and Portland-Vancouver, Wash.

Study Area Map

This area is part of the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor, which extends from Eugene, OR to Vancouver, BC. It is designated as a regional high speed rail corridor, which means planning for top speeds of 90-125 mph.

The project team is currently conducting a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental review process. The NEPA process ensures that the environmental impacts of potential projects are considered, and requires documentation and analysis of both negative and positive impacts.

This process will result in a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which will consider two build alternatives and also a No Action alternative. The Draft EIS considers:

  • What service improvements should be used to improve frequency and speed
  • What rail route should be used
  • Which communities should have stations

The team has identified a recommended Preferred Alternative to take into the DEIS. The Final EIS and Record of Decision will conclude with a Selected Alternative. The Selected Alternative may be subject to further study before construction can begin.

Purpose and Need

Potential alternatives were required to satisfy the Purpose and Need statement in order to be carried forward as preliminary alternatives for further evaluation.

Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives were developed based on input from the public, stakeholders and the project’s Leadership Council. They were used to create criteria that was then used to narrow the field of preliminary alternatives. You can learn more about the remaining alternatives later in this open house.

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Alternatives

In December 2013, the project's Leadership Council recommended two "build" alternatives to analyze in the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will also consider a "no action" alternative.

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DEIS Alternatives

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  • DEIS Alternatives

    DEIS Alternatives

Alternative 1 (Recommended Preferred Alternative)

Follows the existing Amtrak Cascades passenger rail route with improvements.

Alternative 2

Primarily a new route between Springfield and Oregon City located along I-5, an existing freight rail line, and I-205. It would follow the existing alignment north of Oregon City.


Oregon Passenger Rail Alternatives Overview

Recommendation

Based on an initial assessment the team is recommending that Alternative 1 be carried forward as the Preferred Alternative in the DEIS. The Leadership Council will consider this recommendation at their meeting in December 2015.

The recommendation is not a final decision - all alternatives will be analyzed in the DEIS before a Final Preferred Alternative is identified.

Evaluation Criteria

The project team has recently completed an initial analysis of how the alternatives would affect a variety of community and environmental resources. Engineering requirements, transportation impacts, cost, and potential benefits associated with each alternative were also reviewed.

Based on this assessment, the project team is recommending that Alternative 1 be carried forward as the Preferred Alternative in the DEIS. The recommended Preferred Alternative is not a final decision – all alternatives will be fully studied in the DEIS.

The following matrix includes a summary of the initial results when Alternatives 1 and 2 were compared:

Better
No Substantial Difference
Worse

View printable evaluation criteria matrix(pdf, 310 KB)

1. Improve passenger rail mobility and accessibility to communities in the Willamette Valley.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A. Travel time2:35
2:20
2:02
B. Capacity to serve 6 round trips/dayNo
Yes
Yes
C. Multimodal connectionsGood at existing stations
Good at existing stations
Fewer than No Action/Alt 1
D. Ability to serve higher speeds in the futureMaintains current maximum 79 mph speed
Maintains current max 79 mph speed
Increased ridership strengthens market for future service enhancements
Supports max speeds of 120 mph on portions of new alignment
2. Protect freight-rail capacity and investments in the corridor, and maintain safety.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A. At-grade (street level) crossings140 existing at-grade crossings, no modifications
140 existing at-grade crossings, 64 crossings are modified for additional track and trains
49 existing at-grade crossings, 44 are modified, plus 1 new at-grade crossing
B. Ability to accommodate freightWould get worse without investment
Meets (by design)
Meets (by design)
3. Plan, design, implement, maintain, and operate a cost-effective project.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A1. Ability to phase improvementsN/A
Could be constructed incrementally
Limited to major sections of new alignment and upgrades to sections of existing track to accommodate
A2. Costs (capital cost)N/A
$660-$775 million
$3.65-$4.47 billion (over 5 times higher than Alt 1); does not account for upgrades to portions of track south of Oregon City that would later be abandoned
A2. Costs (operations and maintenance)Ongoing based on railroad agreements
≈ $25 million annually
≈ $43 million annually;
New operations and maintenance responsibility for ODOT
B1. Population close to station areas74,385
74,385
65,215
B2. Employment close to station areas180,905
180,905
123,145
C. Projected Annual Ridership (2035)390,000
739,000
723,000
4. Provide an affordable and equitable travel alternative.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A. Availability of travel optionsNo change
Improved train service
Improved train service
B1. Proximity of low income populations to stations8,929
8,929
10,724
B1. Proximity of minority populations to stations27,994
27,994
32,595
B2. Low income populations impacted14,540
14,540
16,664
B2. Minority populations impacted44,024
44,024
43,313
5. Be compatible with passenger rail investments planned in Washington State.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A. Compatibility with WA State (assumed same for all alternatives)Requires intermodal transfer
Seamless intercity rail service
Seamless intercity rail service
6. Promote community health and quality of life for communities along the corridor.
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A. Location Quotient Score (factor considering land use, employment, and social attributes, provides estimate of development potential)1.1
1.1
0.8
B1. Community resources, commercial and residential parcels potentially impacted by rail0
34
49
B2. Percent of adjacent land designated for residential use (noise sensitive)9.6%
9.6%
9.9%
7. Protect and preserve the natural and built environment.*
Performance Evaluation MeasuresNo ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
A1. Acres farmland potentially impacted (potential ROW impact area)0
399 acres
1,312 acres
A2. Assessment of consistency with adopted regional and local comprehensive plansN/A
Cities and Counties support or are neutral regading development of passenger rail
Cities and Counties support or are neutral regading development of passenger rail
A3. Impacts to Willamette River GreenwayNone
None anticipated; No existing crossings of the Willamette River anticipated to be modified; no goal exception work would be required
Up to three new crossings would require goal exception work
B. Qualitative assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from corridor options, based on anticipated vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction due to mode shift and temporary construction-related emissionsRelatively low
Long term: Mode shift from bus or car to train saves energy; Construction requirements would create greenhouse gas
Long term: Mode shift from bus or car to train saves energy; Construction requirements would create GHG [approx 3 times Alt 1]
C1. Qualitative assessment of impacts to habitat, populations, or individuals of Threatened or Endangered species and their critical habitat, as well as impacts to non-listed fish and wildlifeMinimal, same as current conditions
Smaller construction footprint than Alt 2; higher train frequency than no action; one listed plant potentially affected
Larger construction footprint; higher train frequency than no action; Alt 2 has a higher number of stream crossings with new or modified bridge/culverts at designated critical fish habitat than Alt 1.
C2. Percent of study area that is high value wetlands plus percent of all wetlands potentially impactedNone
4.4%
6.6%
C3. Miles of track through areas with relatively high-risk slopes16.9 mi
16.9 mi (alignment); 4.3 mi (footprint)
12.4 mi (alignment); X mi (footprint)
C4. Number of known Section 4(f) resources within 100 feet of the alignment (construction areas only)0
More sites within 100 feet of alignment (122), but less unavoidable direct impacts (up to 3 parks)
Less sites within 100 feet of alignment (64), but more unavoidable direct impacts (up to 5 parks)
C5. Known cultural resources (historic properties and archaeological resources) within 100 feet of the rail alignment (construction areas only)0
381
392
*The environment MOEs are not equal in terms of relative importance. For example, if one alternative results in more severe 4(f) impacts, such a finding could more than counterbalance other measures where the other alternative scores worse.

Differentiating Evaluation Criteria

Learn about which evaluation criteria results stand out the most when comparing Alternatives 1 and 2.

The tabs below highlight some of the key distinguishing features between the Alternatives.

Criteria


Travel Times

The project team looked at projected travel times for each alternative and found that they will vary from one another due to a variety of factors.

Passenger rail travel times were calculated based on:

  • The amount of track shared with freight and congestion related delays
  • The number of stops and time spent at each station

Compared to No Action, the recommended Preferred Alternative saves 15 minutes in travel time and Alternative 2 saves 33 minutes.

No ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
(Goal 1A.) Travel time2:35
2:20
2:02

Stations and Transportation Connections

Intercity passenger rail stations are where all passengers’ trips begin and end, and where people connect with other transportation modes. Unlike city bus, light rail or commuter rail service that provides several stops or stations within relatively short distances, intercity passenger rail ideally connects major population centers longer distances apart with fewer stops. This is so that it can provide faster intercity connectivity and compete with travel by automobile and intercity bus.

These longer intercity passenger rail trips are ideally supported by other regional and local transit service that connect directly to the rail stations. For intercity passenger rail to function most cost-effectively and efficiently, stations must serve the largest population concentrations with the fewest stops, because with every stop at a station, the travel time of a train is extended.

Careful consideration of each station location is essential to ensure that each station:

  • Reduces travel times
  • Serves locations with the most people and jobs near the stations
  • Is well integrated into the local transportation network

The recommended Preferred Alternative would retain existing intercity passenger rail stations in or very near established and active downtown core areas of Eugene, Albany, Salem, Oregon City and Portland. These stations are surrounded by dense urban areas that offer a broad mix of housing, jobs, and other attractions. These stations are also relatively convenient for most people to connect with using regional or local transit, walking, or bicycling.

Alternative 2 would require some new stations near Interstate 5 in Springfield, Salem or Keizer, Wilsonville or Tualatin, and possibly in Albany. The existing surroundings of these potential new stations generally consist of less densely-developed area and would require more people to drive longer distances. Due to the locations of these new stations, ridership forecasts indicate even with train travel time savings associated with Alternative 2, this savings would be offset by lower ridership.

Ability to Build Incrementally

One major difference between the two build alternatives is the ability to build incrementally, potentially increasing from two daily Cascades round trips to six over time.

The recommended Preferred Alternative follows the existing Amtrak passenger route and could be improved in key sections as funding is made available. Alternative 2 would require significant funding, construction and time to complete improvements before any passenger rail service can begin because it is largely an entirely new alignment.

Building Towards True High Speed Rail

Population forecasts for the Willamette Valley do not reach levels over the next 50 years that would support the infrastructure investment required for electrified service above 120 miles per hour. Higher speed rail would require passenger rail to run on its own alignment instead of sharing track with freight rail and also need to be supported by a substantial increase in population. The recommended Preferred Alternative may help build ridership in the future by making improvements in service that will increase demand.

In a separate effort a long-range (beyond 50 years) vision was developed in 2014 for what high speed rail might eventually look like in this corridor.

Cost and Ridership

The 2035 ridership projections for the Preferred Alternative and Alternative 2 are similar. While Alternative 2 has a faster travel time, the Preferred Alternative would attract more people choosing to use passenger rail or throughway buses because they live, work or go to school in proximity to stations that are already located in city centers. Because Alternative 2 would attract less riders and cost significantly more, the Preferred Alternative provides the most cost-effective choice.

No ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
(Goal 3A2.) Costs (capital cost)N/A
$660-$775 million
$3.65-$4.47 billion (over 5 times higher than Alt 1); and does not account for upgrades to portions of track south of Oregon City that would later be abandoned
(Goal 3C.) Ridership (2035 Annual)390,000
739,000
723,000
Capital cost per new rider (was considered in support of goal 3)N/A
$2,100
$12,200

Community and Social Impacts

Population and employment near the recommended Preferred Alternative stations are significantly higher than Alternative 2. The Preferred Alternative stations have the ability to provide greater community benefits as they are located in city centers, and a stronger potential to draw ridership and attract economic development.

Both Alternatives have impacts to parks. The recommended Preferred Alternative can potentially affect up to three parks. Alternative 2 could affect up to five, including running through the Eastgate Woodlands/Alton Baker Park in Springfield.

No ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
(Goal 3B2.) Employment close to station areas180,905
180,905
123,145
(Goal 3B1.) Population close to station areas74,385
74,385
65,215
(Goal 7C4.) Number of known Section 4(f) resources within 100 feet of the alignment (construction areas only)0
More sites within 100 feet of alignment (122), but less unavoidable direct impacts (up to 3 parks)
Less sites within 100 feet of alignment (64), but more unavoidable direct impacts (up to 5 parks)

Natural Environment

The Alternatives travel through the Willamette Valley, a fertile farming area. The No Action option would not impact farmland. However, both of the build Alternatives would require farmland to be used for railroad right-of-way. Based on the projected construction requirements, the recommended Preferred Alternative would require the use of far less farmland compared to Alternative 2.

No ActionAlternative 1
(Recommended Preferred Alternative)
Alternative 2
(Goal 7A1.) Acres of farmland potentially impacted0
399 acres
1,312 acres
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Next Steps

Thank you for participating in this online event and for your interest in the Oregon Passenger Rail project.

The Leadership Council will meet on December 8, 2015 to discuss and consider the recommended Preferred Alternative. The team will then continue to work on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, to be published late 2016. At that time, the public will be able to provide feedback during a formal comment period through public hearings.

Comments are no longer being collected through this online open house, but you may submit comments anytime at OregonPassengerRail.org.

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OPR Process

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    OPR Process

Contact Us

  • Jim Cox, ODOT Project Manager - (503) 986-6612
  • Jill Pearson, Stakeholder Engagement Strategist - (503) 986-3313

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