On December 17, President Michael Schill submitted a letter to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) expressing the university’s strong support of improved passenger rail service between the metropolitan areas of Eugene-Springfield and Portland.
The letter was in response to ODOT’s recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement examining the economic and environmental impacts of improving the frequency, convenience, speed and reliability of passenger rail service between the Portland and the Eugene-Springfield urban areas. ODOT held a series of public open houses throughout the corridor and also invited the public to provide comments online through December 18.
The letter from President Schill states, “passenger rail service has been important to the UO since our founding, but the designation of the Cascadia corridor in 1992 for high-speed rail and improved passenger service is an opportunity that must be realized. With more than 5,000 UO students from the Portland area and numerous graduate program offerings at UO Portland, students, faculty, and visitors frequently travel to and from the Portland region to do business on campus or with UO-affiliated companies and research institutions including OHSU and the new Knight Campus as well as Oregon State University and Portland State University. The popularity of Amtrak service with the UO community is illustrated by the frequently used Amtrak bus service that originates on the UO campus as well as the ridership on Cascades.”
Champions for improved passenger rail service between the Eugene-Springfield and Portland metropolitan areas include Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), State Representative Nancy Nathanson (D-Eugene), Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis and former Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy.
Following the public comment period, ODOT and Federal Railroad Administration will select a Final Preferred Alternative and document that decision in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD). The ROD lays the groundwork for possible passenger rail expansion and investments. The FEIS is anticipated in 2019.