LA GRANDE — A group of advocates for returning passenger train service to Eastern Oregon will meet Oct. 26 in La Grande for what they bill as the Eastern Oregon Passenger Rail Summit.
“This is an effort that won’t happen overnight, and it’s going to depend on support from communities along the route,” said Jon Nuxoll of Eugene, president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates (AORTA).
The organization wants to resurrect Amtrak’s Pioneer route, which ran from Seattle to Salt Lake City and Chicago, passing through and stopping in La Grande, Baker City and Ontario.
Amtrak ended the route in 1997 due to budget cuts.
There have been several efforts in the ensuing 22 years to resurrect the Pioneer route, some of which have gained support from members of Congress including Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Greg Walden.
But none of these campaigns was successful.
Nuxoll, who is organizing the Oct. 26 meeting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Cook Memorial Library, 2006 Fourth St., hopes to change that.
“People in Washington’s Yakima Valley are organizing to bring trains back to Eastern Washington,” Nuxoll said. “We’re hoping to bring together similar local support in the Blue Mountains and Treasure Valley.”
Nuxoll contends the need for passenger rail service is greater now than it was when Amtrak canceled the Pioneer route in 1997.
“There’s now just one daily bus on I-84,” Nuxoll said. “The only other option to driving is flying out of Pendleton. And I-84 isn’t any safer or less crowded.”
Nuxoll said local officials are slated to speak at the Oct. 26 meeting, along with organizers of the Yakima Valley group.
More information about AORTA is available on its Facebook page and at www.aorta.chcs.net