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Boise and Salt Lake City team up to seek intercity rail service

The City of Boise is still aiming to land Treasure Valley on a long-distance Amtrak route, but it’s also aiming a little smaller.

On Tuesday, Mayor Lauren McLean’s transportation adviser, Bre Brush, told Boise City Council that the city was working in partnership with the City of Salt Lake City to open a passenger rail line between Caldwell and Salt Lake City. It would be part of the Federal Rail Administration’s Corridor ID program, which identifies routes previously operated by Amtrak or less than 750 miles for investment.

It’s part of the city’s broader effort alongside other Mountain West partners to restart the full Pioneer line that stretches from Portland to Salt Lake City, which will soon be under consideration as part of the package. of infrastructure adopted last year. The route ended in the late 1990s.

McLean said the program requires two cities within 750 miles of each other to apply for the program as pairs and advocate for rail links between the two metropolitan areas.

“The Mayor of Salt Lake City is doing the same work with his team to Idaho that we did with our team to Utah to build that support and we’re asking that we be twinned as cities for that shorter route.” , she said. during Tuesday’s working session.

And after?

The first big hurdle is for Boise and SLC to pitch the idea to FRA.

The City of Boise submitted a letter of expression of interest about the route to the federal government on Sept. 2 and is currently helping the Utah Transit Authority draft its own letter to be submitted soon. Brush said crafting that letter included meeting with 40 stakeholders about their interest in the route, half of them in Boise and half in Pocatello.

A map of the full route of the Pioneer line before it was discontinued in the late 1990s.

Amtrak officials also visited Boise and Pocatello to answer questions about the program and hear from Idahoans about the possibilities the Pioneer Line could bring. Brush said the more rural communities in eastern Idaho are especially excited about the possibility of another way to travel between the two major metropolitan areas.

“What we heard was that (stakeholders) were excited to take advantage of the newly available funding in (the infrastructure package) to meet our transport needs as a region and many communities in areas more rural people saw this as a potential to fill the void created. by the loss of air service at smaller airports,” she told the council.

Once the letters of interest have been submitted, Brush said the next step is to issue a request for proposals to develop a development plan for the service, a cost estimate and the “next steps we would need to take as a service.” ‘State to achieve this vision’. .”

A train journey in the desert

City Council Speaker Elaine Clegg said the route is just a small part of the work to bring more robust passenger rail service to Mountain West.

Over the past year, she has led the push to include Boise in long-distance rail routes operated by Amtrak, instead of just a shorter route with more frequent trips between Boise and SLC. She said that in addition to adding service between Portland and SLC, there was talk of exploring a north-south route called Desert Wind from Utah to Las Vegas.

“It would be a great path if they eventually identified that,” Clegg said.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion