Reps push for state to invest in passenger rail

Larry Limpf

Two state representatives have introduced a resolution calling for Ohio to invest in passenger rail service and to participate in the Amtrak Connects US program.
“A forty-year career in the railroad industry has shown me how integral passenger rail is to Ohio’s transportation apparatus,” Rep. Michael Sheehy, D-Oregon, said. “Passenger rail will increase the mobility of all Ohioans, especially underserved communities, and would have a substantial positive economic impact on the state. Other states are investing and looking forward. Ohio can’t just keep up, we must get ahead.”
The resolution calls for:
-Restoring regularly scheduled passenger rail service to the Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati corridor.
-Increasing train frequency by an estimated 22 trains per day in Cleveland and an estimated 16 trains per day in cities such as Toledo, Sandusky, Elyria, Ashtabula, Oxford, Bryan, Delaware, Crestline, Sharonville, Springfield and Alliance.
- Bridging existing transportation systems, including the Cleveland RTA Light Rail System, Columbus COTA system and the Cincinnati Metro system.
-Connecting colleges, universities and Fortune 500 companies across the state.
“Improving passenger and commercial freight rail corridors is an important next phase in Ohio’s workforce development campaign. Passenger rail positively impacts the economy, creates good-paying jobs, helps the environment and improves convenience,” said Rep. Adam Miller.
In addition, the resolution urges Ohio’s congressional delegation to support a current infrastructure effort that provides funding for the Amtrak Connects initiative and to push for decreasing the minimum length a route must be to qualify for funding from 750 miles to 250 miles. With the reduction a route from Columbus to Chicago would be eligible for funding.
The infrastructure bill establishes a new Federal Railroad Administration program to identify and fund the development of intercity passenger rail corridors.
During the next 1 ½ years the FRA will evaluate potential corridors and compile a list of routes that will be eligible for federal grant funding, including $12 billion for capital improvements and $250 million in operating assistance.
At present, Amtrak has two routes through Ohio, the Capital Limited and Cardinal. The routes pass through six stations in the state: Alliance, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky and Toledo. (Cincinnati is the only Ohio stop for the Cardinal route.)
The Amtrak Connects initiative is a 15-year plan to expand service for up to 160 new communities.
Some analysts have said they think a good chunk of the new funding will flow to the country’s Northeast Corridor where a majority of Amtrak’s riders and routes are located. One initiative would include rehabilitating the existing tunnel under the Hudson River that carries Amtrak and New Jersey Transit passenger trains between New York and New Jersey.
In 1982, voters in Ohio soundly rejected a ballot issue that would have helped fund development of a high-speed rail system in the state with a sales tax increase.
The measure would have imposed a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund the design and construction of high-speed railways.


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