BOISE, Idaho — The Caldwell City Council on Thursday evening will consider a resolution to support restoration of Amtrak passenger rail service through southwestern Idaho, similar to the stance Boise Mayor Lauren McLean has taken on the issue.
Resolution No. 315-22 supports the restoration of the Pioneer Line, which from 1977 to 1997 Amtrak ran through Boise on the Seattle-to-Salt Lake City route. The Pioneer Line also connected Seattle to Chicago during its 20-year run.
According to a City of Caldwell press release, the city council will consider support of a passenger line that would run from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City, Utah, with a stop in Caldwell.
"The City of Caldwell hopes to join other cities in furthering efforts to restore this important mode of travel," Wednesday's press release said.
At a Boise City Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Mayor's Office presented the support they have in their appeal to the Federal Rail Administration to get the passenger rail service back to southern Idaho.
“We submitted a letter to the administration to consider the route, got the Governor’s support," McLean said. "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."
Of course, rail isn't the only way to get between Boise and Salt Lake City. The Boise Airport offers at least five non-stop flights to and from SLC daily, and Greyhound Bus also offers multiple daily options for the thousands of people who travel between the capitals of Utah and Idaho each year.
So, why are the mayors of Boise and Caldwell pushing for Amtrak's return?
“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," McLean said. "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."
Caldwell Resolution No. 315-22 states, "for many years, Americans living in the Greater Northwest have not had good access to passenger rail services and the lack of rail service, loss of air service at smaller airports in the region, and significant economic impact intercity passenger rail service can provide has fueled interest at the local, county, and state level in the Greater Northwest region to join forces to find innovative ways to move our people."
The idea is not new and 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 in passenger rail service. 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," McLean said. "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."
It's early in the process, but there is an interesting element Boise and Caldwell 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," McLean said. "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."
Restoration of the Caldwell Train Depot started in 2002, with the Train Depot Interpretative Center opening in 2008.
The Caldwell City Council meeting Thursday is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Caldwell Police Department Community Room, located at 110 S. 5th Ave.
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