All about trains

By Bill Rautenstrauch, The Observer February 11, 2013 09:39 am

David Arnold, a lifetime train enthusiast, active volunteer for the Friends of the Joseph Branch and vice-president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, is joining a diverse committee that will have input into policies, priorities and strategies for freight, passenger and commuter rail transportation. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
David Arnold, a lifetime train enthusiast, active volunteer for the Friends of the Joseph Branch and vice-president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, is joining a diverse committee that will have input into policies, priorities and strategies for freight, passenger and commuter rail transportation. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

by BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH / The Observer 

Local train enthusiast David Arnold named to help update Oregon’s State Rail Plan 

A local man noted for his advocacy of passenger rail service has been named to a steering committee recently formed to help update Oregon’s State Rail Plan. 

David Arnold, a lifetime train enthusiast, active volunteer for the Friends of the Joseph Branch and vice-president of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, is joining a diverse committee that will have input into policies, priorities and strategies for freight, passenger and commuter rail transportation. 

He said he’s excited about the role he will have in the process.

“This will be a nearly 18-month project. We will have a plan for how to improve what’s already there, as well as adding passenger service,” Arnold said.

Locally, Arnold is a familiar figure at public events including the La Grande Farmers Market, where he has met with crowds and talked up the re-birth of Amtrak’s Pioneer train that formerly ran between Seattle and Salt Lake City and on to Chicago, with stops in Northeast Oregon. 

Arnold said he’s still stumping for some sort of passenger rail service in rural Eastern Oregon, though the state committee’s work will take in much more. The updated plan will clarify rail’s role in the state’s entire transportation system.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, a 2010 rail study, and other previous analysis, provide the springboard for current research, inventory, assessment and stakeholder interview activities. The department is looking to form a new 50-year vision for rail in the state. Policies, rail enhancement strategies, rail-related economic impacts, and potential funding sources all will be studied and re-written.

Arnold said he likes the all-encompassing approach.

“The plan will be on multi-modal and intermodal connections, taking into account automobile travel, truck freight, rail freight, passenger rail. It will look at how all those things connect together in the transportation system,” he said.

The Oregon Transportation Commission and the Federal Rail Administration are the approval authorities for the plan, and the plan won’t become official until it is approved at the state and federal levels.

The steering committee, appointed by the ODOT’s director, will guide plan development based on the results of technical analysis and stakeholder input.

The 19-member committee, chaired by Transportation Commissioner David Lohman, includes representatives from railroads, economic development organizations, county governments, ODOT, advocacy groups, the wood products industry, port authorities and more.

With the steering committee in place, planned public involvement activities include