BOISE, Idaho — It’s been 25 years since a passenger train traveled out of the Boise Depot. From 1977 to 1997, Amtrak ran service through Boise on the Seattle to Salt Lake City route. Boise Mayor Lauren McLean is working to make that history a new reality.
“We're working hard to bring folks together to make sure that we can be considered to have a train route from Boise to Salt Lake City,” said Mayor McLean.
Tuesday night at Boise City Council, the Mayor’s Office will present the support they have in their appeal to the Federal Rail Administration to get passenger rail service back to southern Idaho.
“We submitted a letter to the administration to consider the route, got the Governor’s support. Mayors from throughout this region all the way over through southern Idaho and into eastern Idaho. And we have the support of the (congressional) delegation as well. So really looking forward to doing all we can to compete for consideration for a connection to Salt Lake,” McLean said.
There are certainly ways to get between Boise and SLC. The Boise Airport offers at least 5 non-stop flights to and from SLC daily. Greyhound Bus also offers a couple of trip options daily for the thousands of people that travel between the Utah Capitol and Southern Idaho each year.
So, why is McLean’s administration pushing for this?
“We want to have as many opportunities for our residents to move from place to place as possible. We want to be able to connect our communities in the region, connect to the Air Force base in Mountain Home, connect to Pocatello, and then, of course, get to Salt Lake. Think of all the students that move back and forth and the different opportunity this would provide folks to move more easily from one community to another,” McLean said.
The idea is not new, there has been some chatter about getting Amtrak trains back to Boise for a number of years. The concept, though, was made more realistic in recent years with the Biden Administration pledging significant investments into passenger rail service. Mayor McLean says Amtrak noticed recent community support in Idaho.
“Just a couple of weeks ago, we had about 40 or 50 folks here in the Depot meeting with Amtrak to discuss this. And what Amtrak said to me then was they hadn't seen the level of community support that we were able to muster. And that's a great sign. And sure, we're going to put our best foot forward, seek to have this route looked at so we can be connected to Salt Lake. And if it doesn't work this time, we're going to try, try again,” McLean said.
It's early in the process, but there is an interesting element Boise and other major cities in southwest Idaho already have to make the idea realistic.
“City of Boise owns this beautiful train station. And there will be opportunities if we have this round to invest with the Department of Transportation into making it ready for train travel again. And we have the same opportunity. In Caldwell, where Caldwell owns the train station and in Nampa, it's owned by a nonprofit. So already we've got great bones. We've got the track that runs through our city, the city owns, and then great partnership beyond to do all that we can to make this possible,” McLean said.
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