Mt. Rainier from Kent, WA, photo by C. Hamilton
Mt. Rainier from Kent, WA, photo by C. Hamilton

2023 Train Trek

Returning Passenger Trains to a Station Near You: Why and How

Advocates Meet to Discuss Restoring Passenger Rail Service in Eastern Oregon, Wyoming and Idaho

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. AANW, in cooperation with The Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA), shared its vision of a seamless multimodal transportation connectivity for the Greater Northwest Region. Improved door-to-door connectivity between sidewalks, local public transit, and intercity rail provides economic, environmental, and equity benefits to all, including low-income, tribal, disability, and rural communities; locations where transportation alternatives are limited; and the nearly 30 percent of the population that does not drive.

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. The 2023 Train Trek took place along with the 2nd Annual Greater Northwest Passenger Rail Summit in Boise.

Presentation "Why Passenger Rail -- Train Trek 2023" (PDF, 11 MB)

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).

“With targets for reductions of vehicle trips, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic fatalities all coming due over the next decade, immediate actions should be taken to sustain our region’s economic vitality, environmental commitments, and equitable access for all citizens,” said Patrick Carnahan, AANW’s policy director.

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.

“There are unprecedented funds available for transportation improvements under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” according to a press release announcing All Aboard Northwest’s July 22 event in Baker City. “All Aboard Northwest is working to spread the word, because a safe, robust, seamless transportation system will bring significant economic, environmental and equity benefits to communities of all sizes. Since passenger rail service through Eastern Oregon was discontinued in 1997, several studies have confirmed that there is a significant need for, and interest in, trains that would offer local and regional connections.”

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.

Corey Evan of the Argus Observer wrote:

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.”

By IAN CRAWFORD, Baker City Herald:

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.

Additional Press Coverage

Rawlins, Wyoming

Thursday, July 13, 6:00 PM MT
Rawlins Historic Train Depot

Weiser, Idaho

Friday, July 21, 1:00 pm MT
Weiser Train Depot

Ontario, Oregon

Saturday, July 22, 10:00 am MT
Ontario Community Library

Baker City, Oregon

Saturday, July 22, 4:00 pm PT
Carnegie Crossroads Art Center

Hood River, Oregon

Sunday, July 23, 1:00 pm PT
Hood River Library