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Cost, ridership questions need answers before Amtrak restores service in Oregon, Sen. Wyden says


A preliminary study of Amtrak’s Pioneer Line in eastern Oregon needs to more fully explore key cost and ridership issues before Congress decides to restore passenger-rail service to the region, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter recently sent to Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Boardman.
A preliminary study released last month analyzed the restoration of the Pioneer Line — which was closed in 1997 due to budget concerns — from Portland to eastern Oregon, southern Idaho and points beyond. The study determined the line would benefit the public, but raised questions about cost and ridership, according to Wyden.
Annual operating costs are estimated between $30 million and $40 million, with one-third to be covered by fares. Capital and start-up costs, including expenses for locomotives, passenger cars, and sleeping and food service cars, could exceed $400 million, Wyden wrote. Amtrak is expected to provide Congress a final report on the line by Oct. 16.
“One reason for the high price estimate in the report is that system-wide expenses have been attributed solely to the Pioneer,” Wyden wrote. “Amtrak needs to separate equipment costs from operating costs.”

In addition, current projections for required infrastructure improvements were provided solely by Union Pacific Railroad, which owns most of the proposed route’s track, he said.

“It is important that price estimates are made by a trusted independent source,” Wyden wrote.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/12/2009