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EUGENE, Ore. -- Talk about a high speed rail system from in the Pacific Northwest isn't new. But now Congress is on the verge of deciding whether to hand out billions of dollars to help make it happen.
Supporters rallied Tuesday to urge lawmakers to give the OK. They said a high speed rail could dramatically improve more than just transportation problems in the region.
Eugene resident Tara Vilhauer said, "It's the new mainstream way of traveling."
Congress is mulling over how to allocate billions of transportation dollars, and Oregon is hoping some of that money gets thrown its way.
The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG) held a press conference backing the rail system. Among the crowd was University of Oregon students, Eugene City Mayor Kitty Piercy and State Representative Nancy Nathanson.
Mayor Piercy said, "We recognize Eugene as an important peice in the future of Eugene, and an important peice in the future of the state."
Eugene would be the southern most station of this corridor stretching as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia.
There are two different ways it could happen. Oregon applied for $2.1 billion last year under the American Reinvestment And Recovery Act. That grant is still pending.
If the state doesn't get that, then it has to hope that a possible $4 billion transportation appropriations bill passes.
State Representative Nancy Nathanson supports the rail system.
"We've demonstrated we have a regional approach to solving problems and improved rail for the entire Pacific Northwest," Nathanson said.
Supporters said a high speed rail system would offer solutions to economic, environmental and energy problems.
It would increase top speeds to 110 miles per hour, cutting travel time. It would increase round trips to Portland to Eugene from 2 to 6 per day.
They said the line could also potentially create 44,000 new jobs for Oregonians.
OSPIRG representatives said this rail could reduce carbon emissions by more than 69,000 pounds per day.
The Senate version of the transportation appropriations bill downsized funding to $1.2 billion. Congress is expected to convene in mid-December to hash out a final version.
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