Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby Rockingham Racer » Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:23 am

Vincent wrote:Oregon has filed a pre-application for an ARRA/HSIPR grant of over $2.1 bn, which includes money (~$1.8bn) for 110 mph electrification of the route between Portland and Eugene. The pre-application, however, doesn't clearly state whether it's the OE or UP route that they are planning to upgrade. Anybody know which route is in the plan?

Oregon's HSIPR pre-application: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/docs/AR ... WRC_OR.pdf


As an answer to question # 18 about host railroads, UP is given as an answer. I don't recall seeing the OE anywhere in the request document.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby westr » Sun Jul 19, 2009 3:02 am

Vincent wrote:Oregon has filed a pre-application for an ARRA/HSIPR grant of over $2.1 bn, which includes money (~$1.8bn) for 110 mph electrification of the route between Portland and Eugene. The pre-application, however, doesn't clearly state whether it's the OE or UP route that they are planning to upgrade. Anybody know which route is in the plan?


You're right that its not clear. Many of the specific improvements mentioned are for sections that would be used either way. The only significant clue is in item #7: double tracking from Willsburg Jct. (where the OE routing would diverge from the current UP route) to Clackamas. If they moved the northern portion of the route over to the OE line, it wouldn't go through Clackamas any more (though Clackamas is still close enough to where the OE routing would rejoin UP that it still might be necessary). Item #8 also mentions a new crossover to "enhance" freight access to the Eugene Yard. Which would seem to suggest the southern end will still be on the UP as well. I would assume that this pre-application is for the current UP routing, but its hard to say for sure.

I'm not sure that this pre-application aligns with the Passenger Rail Study. This pre-application includes upgrading to a top speed of 110 miles per hour and electrification(!), neither of which was in the study, which considered a new top speed of 90 and never mentioned electrification. I have a feeling this was in the works before the Passenger Rail Study was completed, and may make the study irrelevent.

Rockingham Racer wrote:As an answer to question # 18 about host railroads, UP is given as an answer. I don't recall seeing the OE anywhere in the request document.


The OE as an entity no longer exists, so it wouldn't appear as a host railroad. Its the historic name for a route currently owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation, BNSF and Portland & Western and operated by Portland & Western. In question 18, the Oregon Department of Transportation is listed as "Railroad Owner 1" and Union Pacific as "Railroad Owner 2." Question 24 lists additional railroad ROW owners Portland & Western, BNSF & the City of Portland. Specifically how each of them are involved isn't listed, but several of the specific projects listed (those north of Union Station) are on BNSF. The inclusion of Portland & Western doesn't necessarily mean anything as they have trackage rights over most of the current route and the work at Willbridge (Item #6) will impact the junction with their Astoria line. From the application alone, its impossible to tell how much of the project belongs to each owner.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Sun Jul 19, 2009 10:17 pm

lbshelby wrote:Cities that the OE does not pass through that the UP line does pass through are irrelevant if they do not currently have an Amtrak station.


It's absolutely relevant. Is the idea simply to upgrade existing service (in which case - there should be no consideration of relocating the service, the stations are set in stone - literally - and thus this study was wasted time and effort!) Or is it to add new rail service - in which the prospect of new ridership bases should certainly be a consideration.

One of the main drivers is to add onto the WES route - not one of the WES communities has had passenger rail service since the 1930s and certainly not served by Amtrak.

lbshelby wrote:Again, this is a preliminary study. It does not have the level of detail being debated here and nor should it. That will come later in the process. In the meanwhile, if people wish to debate it, oppose it, or consider it a waste of money, that's their right. None of that, however, changes the fact that all parties at the table have been positive and supportive, and are likely to remain so.


Frankly as a resident and taxpayer, I've seen far too many of these very optimistic studies about how great and wonderful X project will be; only to find that the end result is either successful at a high cost, or less than successful (and at a high cost):

1. OHSU Tram: Originally projected at about $15 million; original studies failed to account for geological conditions at OHSU site requiring massive anchors into hillside. Ultimate cost was close to $70 million - nearly 5x original estimate.
2. WES: Originally projected at $80 million; original studies failed to account for the scope of rebuilding the OE line to meet current rail standards; railcar costs were underestimated and a poor decision to use an unproven manufacturer resulted in massive cost overruns for the vehicles, including the requirement that TriMet personally take over the builder to ensure completion of the cars. Further, the cost of ROW was underestimated - it was assumed that WES would not have to acquire any ROW but it was discovered, again, after the initial studies that Union Pacific owned the ROW from Tigard to Beaverton. Needless to say TriMet didn't have the money and Washington County was forced to pony up the $26 million to buy the line - and Union Pacific knew that it had an upper hand in negotiating and was able to make out like bandits.
3. Portland Streetcar: This "budget" project has forced a regional subsidy by TriMet taxpayers, at the same time TriMet can't afford to maintain its own bus system. As a result the Streetcar and its residents enjoy a free ride, while bus service is being cut back in the region. Portland is benefiting from the investment, but failing to share the rewards back since Portland has diverted property tax revenues away from regional governments.

Of course the politicians and engineering firms (who make big bucks as consultants) are going to bally-hoo the latest and greatest project. And consistently they know to build support they have to give us the "best case example" so that taxpayers won't immediately panic. Only after the necessary approvals are given that we find out that we have to pay more - 100, 200, 500% more than bargained - and at that point the solution becomes to kill off what we already have (and was able to afford).

To suggest that it's inappropriate to question these studies...the last time I checked we are in a democracy and it's our obligation to stand up and question these studies. When government tells me what's best without giving me all the options, it gives me all the reason to be suspicious.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby lbshelby » Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:42 pm

wigwagfan wrote:It's absolutely relevant. Is the idea simply to upgrade existing service (in which case - there should be no consideration of relocating the service, the stations are set in stone - literally - and thus this study was wasted time and effort!) Or is it to add new rail service - in which the prospect of new ridership bases should certainly be a consideration.


No, it's not relevant. Nobody is proposing adding new rail service. What is being proposed is an improvement of the existing service through a greater service level. Adding multiple new stations is not on the table.

wigwagfan wrote:To suggest that it's inappropriate to question these studies...the last time I checked we are in a democracy and it's our obligation to stand up and question these studies.


I have not suggested that you cannot or should not question the study. I have suggested that the kind of details that many (and especially you) are complaining are not addressed in this study would be inappropriate for the study to have included. This isn't a proposal. It isn't a fatal flaw analysis. It's not a DEIS or EIS. It's not a preliminary engineering plan, much less a final engineering plan. The study is the equivalent of a consultant's concept, and no more than that. It does not even represent state policy. ODOT could use it to guide their decisions, yes, but they could also toss it aside and ignore it. It has no official standing and only exists as a document to help inform the agency's decisions.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby dmcfarling » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:13 pm

The June 2009 ODOT Intercity Passenger Rail Study is not credible. The claim that it would cost less to improve the OE alignment for higher speed passenger trains than to improve the UPRR between Portland and Eugene is patently false.

The Study assumes all improvements proposed for the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) alignment would be paid for by the State of Oregon. Whereas improvements would benefit freight trains, in fact far more freight trains than passenger trains, UPRR should pay a significant share of the cost. Although the Federal Railroad Administration has mandated that UPRR install positive train control (PTC) by 2015 (with or without passenger trains), the study "assumed" the State of Oregon would pay 100% of the cost.

The Study ignores the costs of new right-of-way acquisition required if the proposed OE alignment were adopted. The cost of acquiring the new right-of-way as proposed in the ODOT Rail Study, even BEFORE any improvements are made to that right-of-way, would exceed the cost of improvements needed on the UPRR.

The Study appears to assume that double tracking the entire UPRR between Portland and Eugene is required to accommodate four additional Amtrak Cascades roundtrips per day, and increased freight traffic. That is false.

The ODOT Rail Study states that "no passenger trains" operate on the OE corridor. But there are 32 WES commuter trains (passenger trains) operating Monday-Friday on the Tualatin-Wilsonville segment of the OE line. Each of these trains, unlike freight trains, routinely STOP in both Tualatin and Wilsonville. While improvements proposed in the ODOT Rail Study could eliminate conflicts at the Tualatin station, they do not address the stop in Wilsonville where commuter trains linger for extended periods. Furthermore, unlike freight trains, the commuter trains concentrate their operations during the same hours that will be used for the regional higher speed passenger trains.

There is MORE rail congestion on the OE Tualatin-Willsonville segment than there is on the corresponding UPRR track. Consideration is being given to extend commuter operations to Salem.

The ODOT Rail Study implies that by diverting from the UPRR alignment that Amtrak Cascades trains would incur diminished track congestion. But the Rail Study’s proposed alignment relies on UPRR right-of-way:
(1) Between Portland Union Station and Willsburg Junction, where the worst of UPRR freight congestion is located.
(2) In Albany
(3) In Harrisburg
(4) In Junction City
(5) In Eugene

The ODOT Rail Study fails to address the very significant problem passenger trains would face in departing from and returning to UPRR Dispatch Center control in the journey between Portland and Eugene. The transition between dispatch centers could occur as frequently as 3-4 times each direction, causing significant delays and diminished reliability. Each time a passenger train requests to return to the UPRR RoW, UP dispatchers are likely to delay access until it presents no problem for UP freight trains already on the line.

The ODOT Rail Study ignores the inherent advantages of passenger trains remaining under the control of a single dispatch center between Portland and Eugene. Once on the UPRR RoW, dispatchers tend to want to keep the passenger trains moving so they do not block UP freight movements.

The ODOT Rail Study includes totally inadequate projections for increased passenger train frequency for the year 2030.

The ODOT Rail Study appears to ignore the very significant differences between the widths of the UPRR right-of-way (mostly 100 feet) and the width of the OE right-of-way (mostly 35-50 feet), and the proximity of the OE to developments (private homes, businesses, schools, parks, etc.).

The ODOT Rail Study appears to ignore the inherent political difficulties and costs associated with introducing fast and frequent rail services in a heavily populated corridors where there has been very little service, and very slow service, for several years. The proposed "OE alignment" is in proximity to million+ dollar homes in Milwaukie, Lake Oswego and Salem.

The ODOT Rail Study appears to have ignored the glaring difference between the UPRR and the OE in terms of at-grade crossings and the very high costs that would result from improving those crossings, relocating businesses, and developing alternative accesses for properties isolated by the necessary closure of some OE at-grade crossings.

The ODOT Rail Study appears to ignore the multiple sharp radius curves and S-curves encountered on the OE alignment, and the impact that would have on either speed or acquisition of more right-of-way, often in areas where there is extensive development (i.e. Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, Salem (Highland and Grant neighborhoods).

The study ignores the fact that in Orville (south of Salem) the OE traverses geologically unstable soil. Because of frequent slides in this area, consideration has been given to abandoning the OE alignment in favor of the UPRR alignment in this area.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:26 pm

dmcfarling wrote:While improvements proposed in the ODOT Rail Study could eliminate conflicts at the Tualatin station, they do not address the stop in Wilsonville where commuter trains linger for extended periods.


Many, many excellent points brought up, but I must address Tualatin...

First, Wilsonville - I doubt Wilsonville is that big of a deal. The WES platform is well off the mainline, and there is room to build mainline platforms if needed; there's room for double-tracking AND platforms, in addition to the WES platform. The biggest problem in Wilsonville isn't the WES platform but the Willamette River bridge to the south - either live with a single-track bridge, or pay big bucks to build a second span.

Tualatin...let's see just what's wrong with Tualatin.

1. The station area is extremely confined. To the east you have Boones Ferry Road, a busy Tualatin arterial. Remove/decrease it, and you've got to find a way to deal with the traffic. Unfortunately, local transit in Tualatin plain sucks - TriMet promised better bus service in Tualatin and broke the promise. You still cannot get between Tualatin and Sherwood using TriMet, unless you go through Tigard (and add 3x the distance and 10x the time). Totally unacceptable, but I've learned to accept that TriMet doesn't give a damn. To the west you have plenty of development. To the northwest you have a historic (and occupied) home, and just north of that house is a protected wetland. You could theoretically push the platform south, but then you'd cut off access from Boones Ferry to the Hedges Creek shopping center and force that traffic onto notoriously congested Tualatin-Sherwood Road, one of the busiest roads in all of Washington County. There is no room to add a second track, either.

2. There's no other decent place for a train station. Even Haagen's, the grocery store, had to admit after it tried to mount a massive public relations campaign against the WES station next to its store that there just was no other suitable location - the location it suggested (north of the current platform, adjacent to the police station) was not suitable due to a very small size, lack of access, wetlands, and no connectivity to anything (other than the police station - not exactly a destination). The Tualatin Elementary School site could be used but it's hidden well out of the way.

3. Tualatin-Sherwood Road. Need I say more? This road needs an overpass over the OE and Boones Ferry Road.

4. The connection from the OE to the Westside District (Newberg Branch) is not as simple as the planners believe. The Westside crosses over the OE on a long trestle, connecting to an aging truss span. This bridge would likely need to be replaced, along with building a new connection down to the OE. But wait - there's a very popular park in the way, not to mention Boones Ferry Road would have to be re-routed - further destroying the park (or forcing the traffic west onto Tualatin-Sherwood Road, adding to the already horrible congestion).

5. The WES platform, being a short, high-level platform, is incompatible with any other piece of rail passenger equipment used west of Chicago. Talgos couldn't stop. Superliners couldn't stop. Bombardier bi-levels couldn't stop. California cars couldn't stop. The vast majority of off-the-shelf European MU equipment couldn't stop. And anything longer than 160 feet would have a problem. The Cascades Talgo consist is 585 feet, plus locomotives. Even a modest three car Bombardier or California Car set is 255 feet plus locomotives. And since there's no room for another platform, these trains would have to bypass Tualatin without stopping. (In which case, if these trains are going to bypass Tualatin and Wilsonville - what's the point of re-routing them onto the OE knowing that the alignment within Salem is so far deplorable compared to the UP?)

Just "solving" the problems in Tualatin will take tens of millions of dollars, plus massive realignment of major streets and utilities, the destruction of a popular city park...money that by itself could be better used to straightening out curves near New Era, or adding a few sidings or double-track on the UP, or coming up with a fix for congestion in the Portland Terminal. Add to that dealing with Salem, Albany, Harrisburg, Junction City and Eugene - other cities with poor OE alignments, two major Willamette River bridges, and the track between Salem and the Santiam River. It just doesn't make sense...yes, it pencils out on paper (so does putting HSR on the Tillamook Branch between Banks and Wheeler - it's only 60 miles!
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby AgentSkelly » Thu Sep 03, 2009 11:24 pm

I'm confused here...why would the Cascades need to stop in Tualatin? I can see Wilsonville but not Tualatin.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby westr » Fri Sep 04, 2009 1:35 am

AgentSkelly wrote:I'm confused here...why would the Cascades need to stop in Tualatin? I can see Wilsonville but not Tualatin.


It really doesn't, but the Passenger Rail Study proposes a stop in Tualatin to replace the current stop in Oregon City if the Cascades moved to Oregon City. I think Wilsonville would make more sense, and would make a better connection for a transfer to WES.

About Tualatin, there are two ideas for what to do in Tualatin to accomodate the Cascades. See Figure 4 on page 16 of the Passenger Rail Study. One is to raise the existing track WES runs on to the level of the line to Lake Oswego. The other is to build a new connection between the lines to the west, which seems like a more realistic idea. Although I still think the best option is to stay on the UP line.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:00 pm

AgentSkelly wrote:I'm confused here...why would the Cascades need to stop in Tualatin? I can see Wilsonville but not Tualatin.


Why would a Wilsonville stop make more sense than Tualatin?

Tualatin has a centralized city core, Wilsonville does not. (Just try to find "downtown" Wilsonville. Historically, it is located on Boones Ferry Road, south of Wilsonville Road, near the old ferry landing. While the OE line does pass through the "downtown", the WES station is located well north of this area and it is not a walkable distance to the WES station. Very poor planning on TriMet/City's part to locate the WES station there instead of along Wilsonville Road.)

Tualatin has a greater population - 26,040, compared with Wilsonville - 17,940.

Tualatin has a larger catchment area - includes Sherwood, just four miles to the west, Tigard and Durham are also within reach. Wilsonville has no nearby communities other than the southern edge of Tualatin.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Fri Sep 04, 2009 3:04 pm

westr wrote:The other is to build a new connection between the lines to the west, which seems like a more realistic idea. Although I still think the best option is to stay on the UP line.


Originally, I would have supported a MAX (not WES) line using the old OE alignment from downtown Portland, through Multnomah Village and Garden Home to Washington Square, then using the OE line to Tigard and terminating at Tualatin. The OE freight trackage would use a connection in the western, industrial part of Tualatin to the ex-SP Newberg Branch. This would have also eliminated the railroad crossing at Tualatin-Sherwood Road and Boones Ferry Road, and the little stretch of right-of-way roughly from Tualatin-Sherwood Road to Avery Street would become a pedestrian/bike path (since it passes through many residential neighborhoods anyways, it would have afforded an easy way for those neighborhoods to access the MAX station).

However, in the recent years the land between the OE and Tualatin-Sherwood Road has been fully developed; there was one or two properties that could have been easily acquired to use for a new connection. Not anymore, at least not without bulldozing stuff.

Just another reason why the OE doesn't make sense...there was absolutely no consideration of the adjacent properties that would have to be purchased in order to make it work. And that's just in Tualatin, not in Salem which would be an even worse situation.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby westr » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:40 pm

I didn't say it was necessarily a good idea, just a more realistic idea than the big viaduct they'd have to build through town. It would probably be easier to eminent domain property west of town than tear up the downtown area. And, would a mainline curve even fit in the park area where the lines cross? I'm thinking it would have to diverge down by the WES platform and not connect to the other line until across the river, requiring another bridge and maybe even taking out some of the buildings across the river.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby AgentSkelly » Fri Sep 04, 2009 10:50 pm

You know, I just thought of something.

Where is the bottleneck right now on the UP track? From what I know about the current Cascades operation in Oregon, its mostly after Oregon City and before Salem. Is that a correct guess?
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Sat Sep 05, 2009 12:36 am

AgentSkelly wrote:Where is the bottleneck right now on the UP track? From what I know about the current Cascades operation in Oregon, its mostly after Oregon City and before Salem. Is that a correct guess?


Actually it's the Portland Terminal in general - you have Lake Yard/Willbridge (controlled by BNSF), Union Station, VC Tower (controlled by UP), Steel Bridge (UP), East Portland (UP), and Brooklyn.

However, Oregon City-Canby is also a bottleneck only because of permanent speed restrictions. Then again, if you swap out the UP mainline for the OE, the OE has the same exact problem south of Salem, through Minto and towards the Santiam River. But Portland Terminal is the real problem.

I don't think you can really squeeze out more time from Milwaukie to Tualatin, you're in a very densely developed area, generally residential, and in Tualatin you'll have a very sharp curve to get onto the OE (with a steep grade) unless you make the junction further east (which would have been a good idea, and possible three years ago but not as easily anymore thanks to development). Plus when you throw in the street running and the sharp curves in Salem and Albany - the UP is still going to win hands down.

About the only "benefit" the OE has in the speed department is that the OE passes through fewer towns - between Wilsonville and Keizer you only have Donald; from Albany to Harrisburg the OE skips past everything (which is located on the SP/Highway 99E). However...that actually becomes a disadvantage when you lose out on potential station locations down the road - do you build a station in a city center, or out in the farmland (Woodburn being a prime example)? And then you can still make cost effective improvements on the UP to speed up trains in the communities, just as Amtrak can do 60 MPH in Northwest Portland or 79 in East Vancouver.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby UH60L » Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:04 am

Not sure if anyone has heard, but they are also approving a study of extendding the WES system to Salem. So, if that were to happen, how would those two system swork togeather, along wiht the P&W freight trains. My personal oppinion is that they would have to stick with one or the other passenger service on the old OE line, or it would jsut get two congested. Although, it may be easier, for the most part, to double track the old OE than it wwould be the UP. I know some palces are tight, but a majority of it is through farmland (please correct me if I'm wrong on this). I know it is at least between Salem and Portland, causee I grew up across the tracks from the old OE station at Waconda road. Back then (70's & 80's) it was owned/run by the BN.

I'm mostly familiar with the Salem area of th OE. I knwo there is a cross over between the OE and UP in Salem at the industrial area, close to the Salem Parkway. The problem is, I believe it runs north end at the Up and South end at the OE. If it were the other way around, they might be able to use it to cross over and still stop at the Salem station without having to negotiate the tight turns in downtown Salem. Not sure if there is a speed restriction on that cross over though.

Also, I'd like to say that the pure railfan, little boy in me, would love to watch passenger trains go past my parents house. How cool would it be to see passengers trains going past the old station again. Makse me want to go visit jsut thinking about it.

Whatever they decide, it's nice to see them talking about using the tracks for a change instead of tearing them out. It's a shame they got rid of the geere line, could have been used for commuter service in the future.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:38 pm

UH60L wrote:Not sure if anyone has heard, but they are also approving a study of extendding the WES system to Salem. So, if that were to happen, how would those two system swork togeather, along wiht the P&W freight trains. My personal oppinion is that they would have to stick with one or the other passenger service on the old OE line, or it would jsut get two congested. Although, it may be easier, for the most part, to double track the old OE than it wwould be the UP. I know some palces are tight, but a majority of it is through farmland (please correct me if I'm wrong on this). I know it is at least between Salem and Portland, causee I grew up across the tracks from the old OE station at Waconda road. Back then (70's & 80's) it was owned/run by the BN.


I don't think the two daily P&W freight trains are the problem. The problem is between Wilsonville and Salem is a lot of nothing, compared with the existing development along the original rail route (the Southern Pacific, now Union Pacific, valley main) and old U.S. Highway 99E. Not to mention that Amtrak already runs over there.

The OE could be easily double-tracked; but for what? Amtrak couldn't run on it very easily. Not everyone who is in Salem wants to go to Washington County.

UH60L wrote:I'm mostly familiar with the Salem area of th OE. I knwo there is a cross over between the OE and UP in Salem at the industrial area, close to the Salem Parkway. The problem is, I believe it runs north end at the Up and South end at the OE. If it were the other way around, they might be able to use it to cross over and still stop at the Salem station without having to negotiate the tight turns in downtown Salem. Not sure if there is a speed restriction on that cross over though.


That track is...um...NOT suitable! First of all the track was designed for BN trains from Vancouver to head south on the SP, then swing westward on the connection onto the OE and continue south towards Albany. There are no wyes and the area is fully developed. The curves are 10 MPH curves on either end. In other words, it is exactly the OPPOSITE configuration as is needed - and there's no room to change it.

Hypothetically, one could build a connection from the UP main to the OE main in the manner you're talking about between Salem Industrial Way (the new overpass) and Hyacinth, or build it right alongside I-5 as the freeway passes over the SP main and extend the new track to where Ridge Drive dead-ends, just south of the Salem Parkway interchange. But you're talking money...

Personally: if commuter rail is (1) going to extend to Salem (which is a good idea)!, and (2) tie into WES - a much, MUCH better solution is to stay on the UP to Hubbard (thus serving Brooks, Gervais, Woodburn, Hubbard) - then split into two routes - one continuing on the UP to Canby, Oregon City, Clackamas, Milwaukie and Union Station; and the second route following the Wilsonville-Hubbard cutoff (a.k.a. Highway 551) up to I-5, then about one mile of new track including a viaduct over I-5 to tie into the OE just south of the Willamette River bridge. The one - and only - drawback is having to deal with the UP, but I do not think this is the fatal flaw that so many people make it out to be...whereas the OE has lots of flaws (in particular it doesn't serve Woodburn while the UP runs right through downtown Woodburn).

UH60L wrote:Whatever they decide, it's nice to see them talking about using the tracks for a change instead of tearing them out. It's a shame they got rid of the geere line, could have been used for commuter service in the future.


The Geer Line doesn't really serve anything. It could have MAYBE served as a "trolley" line akin to the Willamette Shores Trolley or the Astoria Trolley, but it also ran through a seedy neighborhood and run through the State Pen.

Since you mention an eastside line, running commuter rail through Woodburn on the UP would allow a DMU type service on the old West Stayton Branch (now the Willamette Valley Railroad) serving Mount Angel (think Oktoberfest) and Silverton - just over 10 miles. Another possibility would be the Mollala Branch out of Canby (now the Oregon Pacific Railroad). And if we really want to think far-out, what about restoring the Dallas Branch from Salem - which was abandoned in the late 1970s/early 1980s - and also service from Gerlinger to Independence?

The problem is: Most of these communities are about 10 or 15,000 people. There just isn't the ridership to justify the cost of commuter rail - remember, WES cost $160 million for 15 miles of track, and it serves a population of about 175,000 folks between the four cities it serves. In the case of the OE - the entire railroad would have to be rebuilt from the subroadbed up, a problem that doesn't exist on the UP (it is already suitable for 79 MPH passenger operations). The branches have suffered from decades of deferred maintenance and barely support trains running at 20 MPH. The Dallas Branch is long gone, and on top of that the City of Salem spent several million dollars converting the old railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge.

Yamhill County tried their own commuter study - the third one - and it came to the exact same conclusion: too expensive, not sufficient ridership. The cost estimates to rehab the track were flawed in the reports and were way too low (WES was originally sold as an $80 million project, the final cost was 200% over estimate). And Yamhill County's study even stated that for the project to be even remotely feasible that it would only serve Newberg - the second largest city in the county, and NOT McMinnville!

The only reason to consider the OE is that ODOT owns the right-of-way (to a point north of, but not within, Keizer). But exactly whose convenience are we providing transportation for - for ODOT, or for the people who use it? Is it convenient for Woodburn residents to pay for a service and have to travel into the farmland outside of the town to use it? Is it convenient for Salem residents to have two different railroad stations - one for WES and one for Amtrak?
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Erik Halstead - Portland, Oregon
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