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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers On Track To Renew Amtrak Funding

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Chris Lehman
/
Northwest News Network
An Amtrak Cascades passenger train passes through Salem.

An Oregon legislative panel has signed off on a plan that would ensure the state's passenger rail service will run at least two more years along the I-5 corridor.

Oregon subsidizes two Amtrak Cascades passenger trains each day between Portland and Eugene. Rail advocates sounded the alarm this spring when lawmakers who chaired a budget subcommittee questioned whether the state was getting enough bang for its buck.

Ridership dropped by nearly 15 percent last year after the state changed when the trains run each day. That concerned lawmakers such as Democratic representative David Gomberg.

"There's some frustration with the amount of subsidy that we're currently providing,” he said. “The answer to that is to get more people to use the service."

Changing the schedule again is easier said than done. It requires the state to negotiate with the freight railroads that own the tracks, as well as Amtrak, which operates the trains.