The line was previously in regular use by Union Pacific until 2007 when falling usage caused them to stop service. The ensuing years of decay even caused a couple of accidents as the tracks were still in use, but not being maintained. In October of last year, the Benton County Board of Commissioners voted to buy the line for $486,000 after a long debate over the usefulness and potential problems of owning the line and keeping it viable.
The Bailey Branch Management Strategy’s purpose is to help decide how the corridor can be used to benefit the public. Some of the ideas mentioned so far include: passenger rail, recreational uses, and shipping purposes. The idea of converting the line to trails for the public, which allows use and enjoyment from the corridor in the present while still maintaining the future use of the line for actual trains, is a popular one that has taken hold in many places across the country. The strategy will include an inventory of the property, identification of issues related to the strategy, and recommendations for potential long and short term uses of the corridor.
The Benton County Board of Commissioners has requested input and involvement from county residents, advisory boards, and commissions. Planning and data collection started in March, but a draft strategy will be presented for public review and comment in July with notifications of the public input meetings. The Board of Commissioners is expected to review and adopt a strategy by August.
Community members will have an opportunity to comment and review the draft strategy before a final proposal is submitted to the Board of Commissioners for final approval.
Comments from the public are welcomed and can be submitted to the Benton County Board of Commissioners, Attn.: Rick Osborn, 205 NW 5th St., Corvallis, OR 97330. Comments can also be submitted by email to: email@example.com.
By Jennifer Smith