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Woodburn on track for future rail station

Woodburn may be home to a new passenger railway station if plans for the Oregon Passenger Rail project stay on track.

High speed rail service could someday whisk riders between stops at speeds of 90 to 125 miles per hour. This could significantly reduce the time it would take to travel between cities in the Willamette Valley. At this point the Oregon Department of Transportation project is in the evaluation phase with final project decisions due in 2016.

The Oregon Passenger Rail project is studying options for improving passenger rail service on the 125-mile segment between Portland and Eugene. ODOT and the Federal Railroad Administration are preparing a tier 1 environmental impact statement, which includes selecting the general rail alignment and the communities where stations would be located.

“I think it would be a great thing,” said Woodburn Mayor Kathy Figley about the potential of a rail station in the city. “Both as a city and I, personally, think it would be great for downtown and it would certainly be a convenience for many of our residents.”

The potential station has not been sited by ODOT, but Figley is in favor of locating it downtown near the Locomotive Park, which sits on the corner of Cleveland and Front streets.

There are currently two alternatives being discussed: The first route would come through downtown Woodburn, following the existing Amtrak Cascades route. The second route runs near Interstate 5 from Eugene-Springfield to Keizer, then follows the Oregon Electric rail line from Keizer to Wilsonville, traveling through West Woodburn, eventually merging with the existing Amtrak alignment in Oregon City.

According to ODOT, it currently takes passengers 2 hours 40 minutes to travel from Portland to Eugene by rail, which is longer than it takes to drive the same distance. The idea of the Oregon Passenger Rail project is to significantly cut that time and make rail travel between cities more efficient, safe and affordable. ODOT predicts high need for a better passenger rail system due to large increases in both population and freight volume forecast for the Willamette Valley over the next 25 years. If completed, the project would provide a fast, reliable transportation option and help decrease highway congestion as the area’s population increases.

“A great thing would be how it would generate more (pedestrian) traffic downtown,” Figley said of a Woodburn station. This, in turn, would encourage more business in the downtown area in an effort to accommodate people using the train service, she added.

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“The other thing is we have so many people who are either retirees or in the college student age bracket where getting back and forth by some means that doesn’t involve driving (would be convenient), especially for people who don’t have cars or don’t drive anymore,” Figley said. “A third of our population is 19 or under and then a huge amount of our population is 65 and older. We have a lot of potential riders here.

“And we have the first- or second-biggest tourist attraction in the state within our city limits,” she said, referring to the Woodburn Premium Outlets. “I think there are some shoppers who would definitely make a day of it, or a day and an overnight of it, by train, if that opportunity was available to them.”

ODOT is scheduled to publish an environmental impact statement near the end of the year, which will be presented to the public in early 2015.

A recommendation for the preferred route won’t be made until late 2015, according to ODOT’s project schedule.

Find detailed information about the project at the website www.oregonpassengerrail.org.




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