AANW News, July 2023
A Very Productive Month
Despite the 105-degree heat during our travels in Idaho and eastern Oregon, July has been an amazingly productive month in the efforts of All Aboard Northwest and our partners.
With your help, we are closer than ever to achieving our vision for a transportation network that
- Provides seamless, door-to-door connectivity to everyone in the region; and
- Offers economic, environmental and equity benefits to all, including low-income, tribal, disability and rural communities, locations where transportation alternatives are limited, and those who cannot drive
Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit
AANW helped plan the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit in Boise, ID on July 19th and 20th, 2023, which featured joint programming with the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region (PNWER) Annual Summit.
In attendance at the Rail Summit were legislators from six states and Canadian provinces, including
- Rep. Jake Fey, House Transportation Committee Chair, Washington State Legislature
- Rep. Dustin Manwaring, Representative, Idaho House of Representatives
- Rep. Denise Baum, Montana House of Representatives
- Rep. Mike Schultz, Utah House of Representatives
- Sen. Chris Gorsek, Joint Transportation Committee Co-Chair, Oregon Senate
AANW was extremely visible throughout the Summit, with our display shown prominently, and used as a backdrop for television interviews of Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner.
AANW’s Charlie Hamilton introduced keynote speaker John Robert Smith of Transportation for America, who used our Vision Map to emphasize the importance of a truly robust national passenger rail network.
Mayor McLean wrote in the City of Boise’s e-Newsletter:
This week was rail week in Boise!…I feel the significance of restoring passenger rail service in Boise in every conversation I have with folks who almost always share a personal story of connection with loved ones.… our commitment to advancing rail connectivity remains steadfast.
Informal gatherings with elected officials were very productive. One of our coalition partners from Washington state commented:
Rep. Fey said that the state needs to decide what the priority is for rail…He still has energy and enthusiasm for making the choice of favoring near-term investment in existing corridors.
Whether you're concerned about the environment, job creation or ease of travel, expansion of rail will bring significant benefits to the Pacific NW. We can take advantage of the current massive investment from the Federal Government into passenger rail to build a seamless region-wide rail service.
AANW’s July 2023 Train Trek, a series of outreach and engagement meetings held in local communities, again focused along the route of the former Pioneer. Information at https://traintrek.org.
The All Aboard Northwest 2023 Train Trek received warm support (up to 105 degrees!) from communities in Wyoming, Idaho, and eastern Oregon -- Rawlins, Weiser, Ontario, Baker City, and Hood River -- July 13-23.
Local citizens were unanimous that renewed passenger rail service would be a boon to their communities. Everyone looked forward to the results of the Federal Railroad Administration's Daily Long-Distance Service Study that is evaluating the feasibility of restoring service in the western Treasure Valley. AANW encouraged participants in the Train Trek events to express their support for renewed passenger rail service to their elected representatives.
AANW explained that now is the time for communities to take advantage of the unprecedented funds available for transportation improvements under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).
A preview of the Rawlins event from KTGA Bigfoot 99 Radio
Tonight, Discover Carbon County, formerly known as the Carbon County Visitor’s Council, and the AANW are hosting a meeting in Rawlins titled Returning Passenger Trains to a Station Near You: Why and How.…Hamilton said the meeting in Rawlins will address the lack of passenger train travel available in Wyoming.
A preview of the Weiser event from Philip A. Janquart of the Weiser Signal American
Hosted by the nonprofit Weiser Architectural Preservation Committee (WAPC), representatives of the passenger rail advocacy group All Aboard Northwest (AANW) and the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA) are bringing their 2023 “Train Trek” to Weiser.…The presentation is intended to share the status of the groups’ efforts in helping to revive passenger rail service and, more specifically, what it would mean for Weiser.
“We’ll have a discussion about what the current situation is in terms of bringing back passenger rail and then we want feedback, to have a discussion with the folks in Weiser so they can tell us what their priorities are,” AANW’s Charles Hamilton told the Signal American on Thursday.…“Since passenger rail service through Eastern Oregon and Western Idaho was discontinued in 1997, several studies confirm that there is a significant need for, and interest in, passenger trains that would offer local and regional connections,” the AANW stated in a press release issued last week.
From Ian Crawford, Baker City Herald:
A nonprofit group is urging federal officials to resume Amtrak passenger train service to a route that includes Baker City.…All Aboard Northwest believes the campaign has gained momentum due to the passage of the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill in 2021.…Charles Hamilton, communications manager for All Aboard Northwest, said the infrastructure bill, which includes $66 billion for a repair backlog for Amtrak’s existing routes, creates an opportunity for rail advocates. “There is money available from the federal government to do rail, specifically to bring back rail services that hasn’t been for a long time, there’s a lot of interest in bringing that back,” Hamilton said.
On Friday, the Weiser Train Depot served as the venue for Train Trek, a series of outreach and engagement meetings aimed at gathering support for the resumption of rail service between Colorado and the Pacific Coast. The events are organized by All Aboard Northwest, an advocacy group which is pushing for use of available federal funds to re-establish rail service in the Greater Northwest region of the U.S., from eastern Oregon to South Dakota.
The Weiser event was conducted by group co-founders Dan Bilka and Charles Hamilton, in an effort to gauge support for bringing back the Pioneer Line, which last operated in 1997. The group’s message is summed up on its website by these three words: “People live here.”
“It’s been many years and you may be aware … there is now, for the first time, an extraordinarily large amount of money available to return passenger rail service to places all over,” said Hamilton to the crowd. “We want to take advantage of that and with the help of communities like yours, that will be possible.”
Last week’s All Aboard Northwest organization’s Train Trek meeting was presented to nearly 50 gathered residents on July 22, in the bottom floor of the Carnegie Art Center.
“What is the largest set of railroads in the world?” Charles Hamilton, communications director at All Aboard Northwest, asked the group.
Guesses included China and India, but Hamilton was quick to clarify, “the United States has the largest, of anywhere in the world, so why aren’t we using it for passenger rail?”
“30% of the American population does not drive. Too young, too old, too poor, or disabled, like myself,” adding that it was why he didn’t stand for the presentation, “or they are in a place where there aren’t many options to drive, or are just concerned about the planet.”
“We want people to be able to get wherever they need to go,” he said, “People take trains because they have to, for a lot of people it’s the only option they have.”
“We’re talking about a return in investment,” he said, going on to describe the scale of impacts the trains have had. A main example coming from Virginia, where a 12 billion dollar interstate lanes expansion instead turned into a roughly 4 million dollar passenger rail service that ultimately reduced interstate traffic.
Our great thanks to Dan McFarling of AORTA and Luis Moscoso of AAWA for their help in making the Train Trek a success, and to our sponsors for making it possible.
AANW Participates in FRA’s Amtrak Long-Distance Service Study
AANW again participated in Northwest and Midwest regional working group meetings to provide the Federal Railroad Administration with feedback on the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study. The working groups are bringing together state DOTs, Amtrak, Class I Railroads, metropolitan planning organizations, regional passenger rail authorities, local officials, federally recognized tribes, and the broader stakeholder community to evaluate how to better connect people with long-distance rail services. We discussed options for evaluating potential routes and how Amtrak and communities can work together to improve intercity passenger rail service.
Please save these dates and register online.
- Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority Annual Conference, August 8-9, Butte, Montana
- AAWA-AORTA-AANW Annual Picnic, August 12, 2023, Lacey, Washington
- Presentation from Stephen Sadis, Director/Editor, Great Northern Filmworks, October 14, 2023, online
AANW advocates for the needs of rail passengers in the Greater Northwest region of the United States. In 2021, All Aboard Northwest was created as the Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Working Group in response to a request from eight US Senators. AANW was registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization in 2022. We ensure everyone has a place in discussions.
All Aboard Northwest engages, educates and energizes the public, elected officials, business and local leaders, through outreach, Train Treks, presentations for legislators and communities, advocacy, soliciting resolutions and letters of support, publicity, coalition building and event planning.
AANW has been successful in joining with other transportation, environmental, health care, labor and community organizations to:
- Successfully pass rail legislation in Oregon and Washington
- Conduct 7 Train Treks since 2021
- Coordinate 3 Passenger Rail Summits since 2021
- Conduct outreach to educate local, state and federal officials about the importance of passenger rail in 93 organizations since the beginning of 2023
- Develop coalitions with 43 organizations to endorse support for passenger rail
- Generate 89 press and media mentions favoring expansion of passenger rail
- Recruit local organizations to generate 71 resolutions and letters of support
- Represent the Greater Northwest region in FRA’s Amtrak Long-Distance Service Study
- Share news and commentary on the web, by email and on social media
AANW Volunteers and Supporters Needed
Our Greater Northwest territory is approximately 1,121,319 square miles. We are the only rail advocacy organization that represents the entire region. It takes a lot of time, money, and resources to represent the entire region, in competition with better-funded areas like the Northeast Corridor.
In order to continue our momentum, AANW is looking for active volunteers. If you have a few hours a week, or a special skill set, that can help us further our goals, reach out to Dan or Charlie to find out how you can help.
Connect and Donate to AANW!
Would you like to have AANW conduct a Train Trek outreach and engagement meeting in your town? We can make it happen with your support. Please contact us and donate at https://allaboardnw.org/support/