SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Amtrak service between Portland and Eugene could be in trouble due to a lack of funding.
A public hearing was held in Salem Monday to discuss a proposed budget for Amtrak’s Cascades route that is millions of dollars short of what’s needed to keep it running.
“We’re trying to do everything possible to not have this service lost,” Donald Leap, Government Affairs Director with the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, told KOIN 6 News.
Amtrak’s Cascades route carries the most passengers of any of the railroad’s services outside of California and the Northeast Corridor. According to ODOT, it will cost just over $28 million to keep the line from shutting down later this year.
“The success of the Cascade Rail System really will affect any other part of the system, so it’s kind of an eco-transportation system,” AORTA President Dr. David Arnold said.
Passenger rail supporters said they are closely tracking the progress of House Bill 5040. In it, ODOT is asking the legislature for $10.4 million to complete the $28.1 million funding package. They already have two-thirds of that in place.
“The issue is, removing the possibility of continuing these trains breaks the links there,” Leap said. “It breaks the connectivity that ODOT has worked hard to install.”
But KOIN 6 News found out the current proposed budget, as it is written, includes just $5 million for all passenger rail.
“It’s been stated that the idea was to try to get ODOT to perhaps tighten its belt a bit, to see if they couldn’t come up with the extra amount,” Leap said.
But that’s just one theory. ODOT has said the service will be discontinued if they don’t receive the $10.4 million they’re asking for. It would cause a major disruption to a line with ridership well over 800,000 between Eugene and Vancouver, Canada.
“If you think of it as a system, any change to one part of the system is going to affect all other parts of the system,” Dr. Arnold said. “So this line is really critical, the ridership has been good.”