Amtrak plans for Dayton: What you should know

Credit: Lisa Rathke

Credit: Lisa Rathke

Plans for a possible new Amtrak service connecting Dayton to Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati have been in the works for years.

Those plans were back in the news this week when U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced that the state of Ohio and other planning organizations will start corridor development efforts, including preparation work for a service development plan for the project.

Here are some other things to know about plans for the project.

What does this mean?

This latest development means that money has been released to start the planning work to identify capital construction projects needed to initiate or expand passenger rail service to the Ohio cities.

How much will this cost?

The Federal Railroad Administration will provide $500,000 to pay for planning for each of the four routes, including the proposed service between Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati (3-C+D corridor).

What did Sen. Sherrod Brown say about this step in the process?

“Today’s announcement is a great first step toward expanding Amtrak in Ohio,” Sen. Brown said in a statement. “Good Amtrak service shouldn’t be a privilege only for people on the coasts. These new routes would expand opportunity, help grow businesses and create jobs, and connect communities in Ohio and across the Midwest.”

How long has Dayton been without passenger rail service?

Dayton hasn’t had passenger rail service in more than 40 years. Dayton lost its Amtrak rail service on Oct. 1, 1979, when the U.S. Department of Transportation redrew the Amtrak map and told Congress it needed to act to continue certain routes. The train that ran through Dayton until 1979 was called the “National Limited.”

What areas of Ohio are being served by Amtrak?

At present, Amtrak’s routes dip into Ohio largely along the northern and southern borders of the state. In southwest Ohio, riders currently only have nearby access to the Cardinal line, which stops in Cincinnati once a day. Passengers board anywhere from 1 to 4 a.m. and either head east toward New York or go westbound toward Chicago.

What would the new Amtrak service offer?

In 2021, Amtrak president Stephen Gardner said the 3-C+D route would offer three daily roundtrips, carrying an estimated 400,000 to 500,000 passengers annually with an annual economic impact of nearly $130 million.

Would new train tracks have to be installed along the routes?

Under the proposal, Amtrak would run passenger trains on existing freight lines that connect the cities owned and operated by other companies. However, the freight lines likely would need some improvements and upgrades, which could lead to faster and improved freight service as well.

How long would a trip through Ohio take on the proposed Amtrak route?

Traveling by train from one end of the corridor to the other initially would take about five and a half hours, but Amtrak would seek to reduce trip times to less than five hours over time with system improvements.

How long has an expansion of Amtrak service in Ohio been in the works?

More than a decade ago, the state of Ohio was awarded $400 million in federal stimulus funding for a proposed 3-C passenger rail corridor that would have stops and stations in downtown Dayton, Riverside and Springfield.

But Ohio Gov. John Kasich stopped the passenger rail project when he was elected in 2010, claiming it would require millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

Why is it different now?

Some officials say this proposal is different because it comes from Amtrak instead of being pushed by the state, and passenger service is in growing demand because of changing transportation preferences of workers, businesses and younger generations.

Across the country, how many communities and passengers does Amtrak serve?

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Amtrak was serving more than 500 U.S. communities and transported 32 million passengers. In 2021, Amtrak proposed connecting as many as 160 additional communities with 30 or more new routes.

Besides in Ohio, what other Amtrak corridors are being planned?

• Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit.

• Chicago-Fort Wayne-Columbus-Pittsburgh, the Midwest Connect corridor via Lima, Kenton, Marysville, Columbus, Newark, Coshocton, Newcomerstown, Uhrichsville, and Steubenville in Ohio.

• Daily Cardinal Service, increasing service frequency from three days per week to daily on Amtrak’s current service to Cincinnati between New York City, Washington, DC and Chicago, IL via the States of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois.