September 18, 2009

Amtrak Report On Pioneer Restoration Released

Crapo encourages public comment; projected costs are a concern

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo wants Idahoans and Northwest residents to offer comment on a preliminary feasibility study just released by Amtrak that says passenger rail service may be restored to southern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Restoring the service will come at a cost.

Crapo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden got a Congressional mandate forcing Amtrak to study restoring the former Pioneer Line that ran from Portland through Boise, Shoshone and Pocatello to Utah before being discontinued in 1997. The preliminary study contains scenarios detailing restoration of passenger service in Idaho and Oregon. The report says "Restoration of the Pioneer would enhance Amtrak's route network and produce public benefits, but would require significant expenditures for initial capital costs and ongoing operation costs not covered by farebox revenues."

"As part of the Amtrak reauthorization, I worked to include a requirement for a one time evaluation of the former Pioneer Route to determine whether a level of passenger demand exists that would warrant considering of reinstating the entire Pioneer Route service or segments of that service," Crapo said. "To make sure that all Idahoans have the opportunity to participate into this process, my website is posting Amtrak's draft Pioneer restoration feasibility study. The next step in this process is for Members of Congress and others to comment on the report as soon as possible."

"While this is a preliminary report, it is an important step toward bringing back a passenger rail line that should never have been closed in the first place and that I have been working for over a decade to restore," Wyden said. "It is important to remember that this preliminary report by no means guarantees the return of the Pioneer Route. There are some significant cost, ridership and service level issues that still need to be worked out. Nevertheless, this report moves things a little further down the line toward giving Eastern Oregon residents the type of rail passenger service available in other parts of the United States."

"These costs are higher than anticipated, and I intend to carefully review the assumptions behind the costs and ridership projections of this draft study and include the input from Idahoan on the interest and merits of restoring the Pioneer Route,' Crapo added. "It is important to remember that this is a draft report and that the final costs can be modified if the facts warrant. It is also important to note that southern Idaho residents remain underserved by commercial air carriers and mass transit. Now is the time for Congress and Amtrak to hear from our state about our transportation options."

A private consultant has estimated that annual operating costs for the Pioneer Line could run between $30 and $40 million annually, with a third of those costs paid by passengers. Capital and startup costs, including those for locomotives, passenger cars, sleeping and food service cars could exceed $400 million. According to Amtrak, interested stakeholders have until October 1 to offer comment on the preliminary study. The final report must be presented to Congress by October 15. Congress may have the final say in restoring Pioneer service.

Crapo has posted a downloadable copy of the report on his website, http://crapo.senate.gov along with information to offer public comments on the return of Amtrak's Pioneer Route. To learn more, please go to:
http://crapo.senate.gov/issues/transportation/Amtrak.cfm


FOR INTERESTED MEDIA: An MP3 file with Crapo's remarks is available until Multimedia at Senator Crapo's website, http://crapo.senate.gov; by calling 1-800-545-1267 and pressing 327 at any time during or after the greeting and instructions; or on the Internet at http://src.senate.gov/radio/ under Crapo.