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Good news for rail today

For Immediate Release

Statement of Dave Rosenfeld, OSPIRG Executive Director, on U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood High-Speed Rail Grants Announcement

“U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood announced $2B in high-speed rail grants today, including over $16 million for Oregon and Washington. Today’s announcement is another step towards reducing our dependence on four dollar a gallon gas, giving us better alternatives to being stuck in traffic, and fewer dollars wasted widening highways and adding runways.”

This is good news that Americans can feel proud of. Congress and the Oregon Legislature needs to ensure that more of these investments will be made. At the federal level, a good place to start is by cutting the $4 billion in annual subsidies that go to highly-profitable oil and gas companies and using those funds to help get America off oil with high-speed rail.

Here in Oregon, the Rail Funding Task Force, made of business and public sector leaders from across the state, is creating a recommendation for the best way to finance Oregon’s long term passenger and freight rail needs – which we encourage our legislators to scrutinize and ultimately act on.

U.S.DOT plans to invest $2.02 billion in 22 high-speed intercity passenger rail projects in 15 states and Amtrak. Northwest projects include:

  • Eugene Station Stub Tracks – $1.5 million for analysis of overnight parking tracks for passenger trains on the southern end of the Pacific Northwest Corridor, adding new capacity for increased passenger and freight rail service.
  • Port of Vancouver Grade Separation – $15 million to eliminate a congested intersection and bottleneck between freight and passenger tracks. By elevating one set of tracks over the other, travel along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor will experience reduced delays and passenger trains will not have to wait for crossing freight traffic.

Oregon is still behind, but hopefully catching up. We still must finalize the gameplan for improved passenger rail, including the alignment and pricetag, and then the Legislature must create a funding mechanism so that our program is sustainable and truly leverages federal dollars. Both will require leadership from Governor Kitzhaber and the Legislature.

Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted 98 applications, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation statement. Among the applicants was Wisconsin, where newly elected Governor Walker had previously rejected federal rail funds.

All in all, another good step in the right direction.”

 

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