Purpose and Background
The Oregon Department of Transportation is studying options for improved passenger rail service between the Columbia River in the Portland urban area and the Eugene-Springfield urban area – a 125 mile segment. This segment is part of the federally designated Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor, which has been the subject of high-speed passenger rail planning for more than 30 years.
As part of this project, ODOT and the Federal Railroad Administration are preparing a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This environmental review process will help ODOT and FRA make a number of important decisions, including selection of the general rail alignment and communities where stations would be located. The project will also determine several service characteristics, such as the number of daily trips, travel time objectives and the technologies to be used (for example, whether the trains will be powered by electric or diesel‐electric engines). The project includes a public involvement strategy to ensure stakeholder participation in the decision‐making process.
Why do we need this project?
Over the next 25 years, the population of the Willamette Valley is expected to grow by approximately 35 percent, with the population anticipated to reach 3.6 million by the year 2035. During the same period, freight volume in the state is expected to grow by 60 percent. These increases will result in travel demand that exceeds the available freight and passenger rail capacity in the Willamette Valley. Rail improvements are needed to provide additional passenger and freight rail capacity and to provide more reliable trains, more frequent trains, and shorter travel times between Portland and Eugene. Current passenger rail service runs on private freight rail lines owned by Union Pacific and BNSF Railway. Read the Purpose and Need Statement.
Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement
ODOT is conducting the Oregon Passenger Rail EIS as part of a federal requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. NEPA requires that an agency analyze the environmental impacts that a project might have before making a decision when federal funds are being used. The EIS process will evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives for passenger rail between Portland and Eugene. Alternatives under consideration will include taking no action (No Build), as well as multiple build alternatives along a variety of corridors between Eugene and Portland. The study will also evaluate different levels of rail service, including the level of train frequency, trip time, and on-time performance. Learn more about the NEPA EIS process.
This project will result in a Tier 1 EIS that will address broad corridor-level issues and will result in one recommended general alignment for passenger rail service (called a “preferred alternative”). If necessary, subsequent projects will use a Tier 2 environmental review, which will analyze, at a greater level of detail, narrower site-specific proposals based on the decisions made in Tier 1. Learn more about tiering.
How will the project be funded?
Funding for the project will be a combination of state and federal funds. ODOT received $4.2 million in federal grants to continue planning efforts for improved passenger rail service between Eugene and Portland. ODOT is adding $5.8 million to the project. The Oregon Passenger Rail EIS is required in order for Oregon to compete for future construction funding for the high-speed rail corridor between Eugene and Portland.