Trains For America

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Amtrak studying Pioneer route return

Here’s some brighter news from Oregon.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that political leaders in eastern Oregon have convinced Amtrak to study the feasibility of a return to the Pioneer  running from Salt Lake City to Portland. The route was closed in 1997.

Warner says Amtrak would either have to build more tracks or negotiate a better deal with freight shippers.

Still, Warner hopes with enough political will, even that problem could be solved.

Fred Warner: “If it was easy, people would use it now, $4 a gallon gas makes it a real viable option now.”

That’s why Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Earl Blumenauer teamed with Republican Greg Walden.

The bipartisan delegation pushed Amtrak to study what it would take to reopen the Pioneer Route.

Amtrak says it’ll publish the report later this year.

And from there, lawmakers will  decide whether to put the Pioneer Route back on track.

Sounds like a bit of a longshot in our familiar anti-rail political climate, but this is the kind of smart infrastructure that should be a key part of the federal stimulus package. Too bad it isn’t. Some smart “steel on the ground” investments today would provide for stimulus well into tomorrow.

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13 Responses

  1. MadPark says:

    Has anyone asked Union Pacific? All I’ve read since #25 and #26 were discontinued is that UP says “never again!” I loved that train, but I never expect to ride it again from Seattle to SLC to visit friends.

  2. And incidentally, what is wrong with the UP here? It’s not like you were passing sidings full of delayed freight trains when you rode that train. And her passage was like the wind- great high speed running from eastern Oregon to SLC.

    This was a textbook case for long routes- an incredibly scenic passage through the Blue Mountains, communities served with no other form of public transit, and, as originally scheduled, a great way for Seattleites to ride to SLC, spend a day, and return in the evening- the exactly right mix of train riding and time spent in Mormonville.

  3. Adron says:

    Actually that route has some really hard to maintain areas and a passenger train “could” throw off train movements. Especially when all UP sees is a big RED SPOT on their books. But with the recent attitudes changing slightly and a stranger eagerness for the Feds to actually cover the rail additions and such, UP would be open to the train if it could be setup to honestly NOT cause disruptions to UP operations.

    I sure do hope that they can come to an agreement. I have lived in Portland for about 6 years total (other parts of the country for the last 20+) and have wanted to go to Denver, except I’m not in such a need to actually fly. I’m really only going to go if it is a dire need and I have to fly, or if they put this line back running again. If the line gets running again, I’d easily visit Denver 2-5 times a year.

    …we shall see. Hopefully the politicians, Amtrak, and UP can figure out a good amiable result for us prospective riders.

  4. DEVON DEER says:

    I THINK IT IS A GREAT IDEA BEACUSE I THINK ITS BEST TO RETURN THE PIONEER TO SERVICE BETWEEN CHICAGO AND PORTLAND IT WOULD RESTORE LONG DISTANCE ROUTES FOR YEARS TO COME.

    BEACUSE I LOVE TO RIDE THE TRAIN I RODE THE PIONEER RIGHT BEFORE IT WAS GONE BACK IN 1997.

    AND TO MY PIONT I THINK IT SHOULD MAKE A COMEBACK

  5. Montrose Woman says:

    I hope this route will be the first place the fed money to Amtrak goes.

  6. Bob Livingston says:

    We need the Pioneer back! I agree that the primary reason that the Pioneer does not exist is UP. I am a frequent rider of the Cascades and formerly the Pioneer, we need to make our voices heard. The Congress, Amtrak and UP need to come to amicable terms to bring the Pioneer back in service immediately. Write to Oregon and Idaho congressional delegates, keep the pressure up!

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  8. Richard DeGarmo says:

    The Pioneer with the stimulus money should be put back on “track” immediately. If you built new passenger cars and really did it up like the Builder is doing you would have a first class train. They need to put the Desert Wind back on also and have the Zephyr, Pioneer and Wind all running with a meet up in Salt Lake City again etc. That was a great train.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Here in Idaho, Many Idahoans support the initiatives to bring the Pioneer back to the North West.

  10. Emelie says:

    Restoring the Pioneer route is a fantastic idea if we think forward. Note that in the summer of ’08 when fuel prices hit $4 a gallon, Amtrak filled their trains. Fuel prices will climb again as world oil reserves decline or become more expensive to extract. In my mind, it is a no brainer. While it may not be cost effective in the next 6-8 years, it will pay off in the long run, reduce global CO2, reduce transportation costs for individual Americans, and provide underserved communities with a mass transit system that they do not currently have.

    Of course, I may be a bit bias. I LOVE train travel.

  11. Rob Ahlschwede says:

    By the way, who gave the UP and the other now defunct rail companies all that land to build the roads and who helped subsidize the construction of all those rail lines back in the day? Maybe the citizens of the US should charge the UP for all that land they were gifted!!! Give me a break, UP!!!
    Train travel can pay for itself, if it is managed properly.

  12. John Bredin says:

    1) What “defunct rail companies”?!

    UP isn’t defunct: it’s the same company since its creation, its shares trade on the stock exchange, and it’s healthy enough to have bought some of the other land-grant railroads. BNSF (was also traded on the exchange, now 100% owned by Warren Buffett) is the result of mergers by the other land-grant railroads.

    Did you somehow post your “defunct” nonsense from 1976, or is that just the last time you read a newspaper?!

    2) The land-grant railroads were required as a condition of the grants to carry troops, Federal officials, supplies for the Army, etc. at reduced rates. Over the years, the Federal government made back the value of the land grants and then some with that discount.

    3) The land-grant railroads received alternating plots of land with the government keeping the other plots, in a checkerboard pattern. The Federal government granted land to the railroads because the Western land would have been nearly worthless without a means for settlers to get in and farm products to go out.

    4) “Train travel can pay for itself, if it is managed properly.” Maybe, if it didn’t have:

    (a) Federal, state, and local government spending billions of tax dollars every year to build and maintain “free” highways next to the railroads, or

    (b) state and local governments raising some of that tax money by assessing property taxes on the railroads, so that the more they expand to compete with highways, the more they pay to build the highways!

  13. Tyler Ingram says:

    I think that they should Bring Back the Pioneer Builder Amtrack Train. Becuse that way people wouldnt have to Drive or take the Grayhound Bus down to Salt Lake City, Ut just to get on the train or some people would like to see Idaho in a way that you couldent by car. I would Like the Pioneer Builder Amtrack Train to come Back.

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