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ODOT rail plans upset area mayors


Local leaders are again rallying their constituents to support or oppose, depending on their perspective, railroad proposals from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

ODOT’s studies will guide a proposed passenger rail route and evaluate options for increasing train frequency and on-time performance while decreasing trip duration. Four routes are under consideration; three of those in Clackamas County could be combined in various ways.

Since a previous study in 2010, ODOT is no longer calling its proposal “high-speed rail,” and the agency is saying it’s “studying ways to improve inter-city passenger rail service” between Eugene and Portland. State leaders decided to focus on inter-city passenger rail, said ODOT spokeswoman Jyll Smith, as a “more realistic” option with current technology limiting train speeds under 79 mph.

ODOT is spending an estimated $10 million on the study, with part of the cost covered by a grant of $4.2 million from the federal government. By doing the study, Oregon would be eligible for more funding, but Smith said the magnitude of that potential funding is still to be determined by Congress.

At a Tuesday, Jan. 15, open house from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Pioneer Community Center, 615 Fifth St., most Oregon City residents will likely be concerned about losing Amtrak service to their station into which they’ve invested millions of tourism dollars.

“This is a great time for people in this community to press for our interest in having that passenger rail service continue here in Oregon City,” said Mayor Doug Neeley.

Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson, who sits on the Gov. John Kitzhaber-appointed Oregon Passenger Rail Leadership Council reviewing the project, plans to give a special project briefing at 6 p.m. before an open house on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 S.E. Kellogg Creek Drive. Ferguson is especially concerned about the prospect of an alignment through the city’s Island Station neighborhood.

“We don’t want that to happen through downtown Milwaukie, but I can’t be the only voice, so if people would get involved and attend some of the open houses, and particularly this Milwaukie briefing, that would be great,” he said.

Time is scheduled at this meeting to ask questions of ODOT Project Director Jim Cox, and comment cards will be collected and submitted to the Rail Leadership Council and ODOT. Based on more than 800 comments during the past summer and fall, ODOT drafted project goals and objectives and identified a range of route options.

Other open houses will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the Multnomah County Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, and on Thursday, Jan. 10, at the Tualatin Police Department, 8650 S.W. Tualatin Road.

If you can’t make it to an open house in your community, you can visit OregonPassengerRail.org anytime before Friday, Jan. 25, to learn about the project and to submit official comments.

On Jan. 31, the Rail Leadership Council is expected to vote to narrow the options to two or three to study.

To learn more about the Oregon Passenger Rail project, the charge of the Leadership Council and public meetings, visit OregonPassengerRail.org, or contact Smith at 503-986-3985 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..