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Central Oregon Rail Planning
Central Oregon Rail Planning Summary Report FINAL - November 2009
Purpose
The purpose of this planning effort was to address various railroad related safety, congestion, freight mobility, and economic development issues in Central Oregon. The Central Oregon Rail Planning Summary Report below contains findings and recommendations related to these issues. The report covers the tri-county area of Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson Counties.
 
The Central Oregon Area Commission on Transportation (COACT) sponsored this effort.  COACT is made up of local and state agencies and transportation stakeholders from the tri-county area.
 
Vicinity Map                                                                       

Central Oregon Rail Planning Summary Report FINAL - November 2009 .3 MB
 
Appendices
Appendix A – Rail Crossings Scoping Report (with Relocation Evaluation)
At-Grade Rail Crossings in southern Jefferson County 6.6 MB
At-Grade Rail Crossings in northern Deschutes Counties 6.4 MB
At-Grade Rail Crossings in central Deschutes County 9.6 MB
At-Grade Rail Crossings in southern Deschutes County 3.5 MB
Alternative A – Relocate existing BNSF railway east of Bend and Redmond-Track and Crossing Costs 1.2 MB
Alternative B – Relocate existing BNSF railway east of Redmond only-Track and Crossing Costs .6 MB
 
Reference Material
Central Oregon Rail Crossings Table <.1 MB
Interactive Map of Crossings and Relocation Alternatives

Background
Train at unsignalized railroad crossing near Culver, OR.
Unsignalized railroad crossing near Culver, OR.
Within Central Oregon there are two major rail lines.  The longest is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway with 101 mainline route miles in Deschutes and Jefferson Counties.  The Union Pacific (UP) Railway also uses this railway through a haulage agreement with BNSF for local switching and for occasional reroute of trains that normally use their own rail line from Chemult to Eugene.  Currently there is an average of 8-12 trains a day that use this route.  This is expected to increase by 8 percent per year over the long term. 
 
The second line is owned by the City of Prineville Railway with 19 miles of track that runs from Prineville to Prineville Junction (just north of Redmond, near the intersection of US 97 and the O’Neil Highway) where it connects with BNSF and UP.  Currently there is an average of 1 train per day that uses this route for freight.  This is not expected to increase over the next several years as the railway has excess freight capacity available on current trains. 
 
In addition there are a number of spur tracks off the BNSF and Prineville lines that access various businesses and properties.
 

Why this planning was needed
Safety
At-grade crossings are dangerous for both motorists and railroad personnel.  There are 45 public at-grade railway-roadway crossings on the BNSF mainline between La Pine and Madras.  Nearly 50 percent of those are within the communities of Bend, La Pine, Madras and Redmond.  The City of Prineville Railway has 22 public at-grade crossings with 33 percent of those within communities.  There are also numerous private at-grade crossings.  Over the past 10 years there have been 17 train/vehicle crashes resulting in 10 injuries and 4 deaths.  With increased rail and vehicle traffic this is expected to substantially increase.
 
Increased congestion
Central Oregon grew by an incredible 64 percent from 2000 to 2006.  As the population increases so does the demand for goods.  Freight traffic is expected to increase at a similar pace, with many more trucks on the highway system each day.
 
As the population increases, so does the traffic.  Many communities are having trouble working to manage the resulting increased congestion.  To make matters worse, the increasing number of trains and the numerous at-grade railroad crossings add significantly to the road congestion and safety problems.  Even short delays can back up traffic for blocks and disrupt traffic patterns throughout a community on any given day.
 
Economic vitality
As the area grows, along with the traffic, along with the demand for goods and services, so do the challenges of getting freight to market, resulting in a direct effect on the economy.  While traffic bottlenecks and congestion worsen, the national railroad trend is towards larger customers and longer distance hauls with fewer stops.  Small rail users, especially in rural areas, are finding it increasingly difficult to gain rail access.  This is already affecting local industries.  Less railroad access will have a compounding effect on the industrial and economic vitality of Central Oregon. 
 
Every rail car can hold the equivalent of 3 to 3 ½ truckloads. Higher fuel costs, increased regulation and a shortage of drivers are causing trucking costs to spiral upward.  The economies provided by rail are needed by local industries to connect and compete in regional, national and global marketplaces. Additional trucks will put tremendous wear on our already stressed highway, road and street systems.
 
Solutions only get more expensive and complicated with time
Now is the time to expand planning for the future.  Land costs have increased significantly in the last few years and will likely continue to appreciate, over time.  Continued development will only narrow options and the costs to build grade-separated improvements will increase as a result.
 

What this planning effort did
Rail Crossing Issue
  • Recommended a regional railroad crossing strategy and decision-making process.
  • Prepared a regional prioritized list of crossing improvements, with cost and timing estimates. 
  • And for comparison purposes, prepared a preliminary feasibility analysis and cost estimate to construct a new rail alignment east of Central Oregon’s urban areas.
 
Freight Mobility Issue
  • Evaluated the feasibility of other long range rail planning work, such as analysis of rail yard and terminal capacity and semi-truck/railroad integration.
  • Evaluated the feasibility of establishing a regional rail freight hub.
  • Evaluated the feasibility for rail sidings or siding improvements in various jurisdictions.
  • Evaluate the feasibility of handling containers by rail into and out of Central Oregon.
 
For both issues, COACT sought public input, worked toward gaining broad public support and present the findings and recommendation to elected officials for their concurrence. 
 

Timeline

Summer 2008        Formal recommendation to COACT as to whether or not to further study the relocation of the BNSF railway east of urban areas in Central Oregon
Fall 2009Complete the Rail Planninng effort, and publish findings and recommendations

Contacts
The following people may be contacted if you have questions or comments.
 

Name
Affiliation
Telephone Number
Email
Address
Gary Farnsworth
Area Manager, ODOT
(541) 388-6071
gary.c.farnsworth@odot.state.or.us
Dan Lovelady
General Manager, City of Prineville Railway
(541) 447-6251
dan@cityofprinevillerailway.com
 

News Articles
Bend Bulletin 12/4/2007 For safety's sake, officials look to reroute railroad