Dayton, Springfield proposed as passenger rail stops for routes connecting Detroit to New Orleans, New York to Dallas

A study being conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration has identified Dayton and Springfield as potential stops on two proposed long-distance passenger rail routes connecting Detroit to New Orleans, Louisiana, and New York to Dallas, Texas.

Dayton hasn’t had passenger rail service since 1979, but that would change if these proposals ever come to pass or if a different proposed intercity service launches that links Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton (the 3-C+D corridor).

These are just proposals, and new passenger rail service likely wouldn’t come to Dayton and Springfield until the 2030s, if it comes at all.

But passenger rail advocacy groups say this is a very promising opportunity and it’s the first time in a long time that long-distance passenger rail is being evaluated for expansion, and not contraction.

“These are real proposals which could happen,” said Mitch Radakovich, chair of All Aboard Ohio, which advocates for passenger rail. “They are routes which historically have actually been run in the past, and we see significant demand among many different groups of people.”

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is conducting an Amtrak daily long-distance service study that is evaluating restoring daily intercity passenger rail service along routes that were discontinued and enhancing existing service.

Amtrak operates 15 long-distance trains, with routes that span roughly 760 to 2,500 miles.

Right now, Amtrak only has one long-distance route that passes through southwest Ohio — the Cardinal service, which operates three days a week between New York and Chicago, with a stop at Union Terminal in Cincinnati.

The FRA has been hosting stakeholder engagement sessions that it says will help determine how to better connect people to long-distance rail services.



The FRA recently released a presentation from a third round of stakeholder group meetings that contains a proposed network of “preferred” long-distance routes that would serve 61 additional metropolitan areas, including Dayton, Springfield and Columbus.

The study lists 15 preferred proposed routes, and one would connect New York City to the Dallas / Fort Worth area, with potential stops and service in Dayton; Springfield, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus; Cincinnati; Indianapolis; St. Louis, Missouri; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Oklahoma City.

Another route would connect Detroit to New Orleans, with possible stops and service in Dayton, Springfield, Toledo, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville and Bowling Green (Kentucky), Nashville (Tennessee) and Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile (Alabama).

The proposed New York-to-Dallas route would be about 1,855 miles, with an expected total travel time of about 45 hours.

The Detroit to New Orleans route would be about 1,245 miles and would require about 29 hours of travel time, end to end.

MapQuest indicates that it would take about 15 hours to drive from Detroit to New Orleans and about 22 hours to drive from New York to Dallas. But most motorists aren’t going to drive 22 hours straight because they need rest and sleep breaks, while trains do not.

The FRA study, which was a requirement of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed by Congress, will help with future passenger rail planning efforts by showing the economic and social benefits of new and restored Amtrak connections, an FRA spokesperson said.

FRA’s study is expected to identify promising long-distance passenger rail enhancement and service expansion projects and Congress will have to decide if it wants to financially support those proposals, said Marc Magliari, Amtrak spokesman.

New or enhanced long-distance services would require significant funding from Congress for infrastructure upgrades, fleet needs and ongoing operating support, the FRA spokesperson said.

But the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides $66 billion for passenger rail, which is the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak was created five decades ago.

“Nothing like this has been attempted before,” Magliari said. “This is the biggest and best opportunity for new Amtrak service that there’s been since Amtrak started operations on May 1, 1971.”



The proposed routes, including those with stops in Ohio cities, are realistic and feasible from an infrastructure and technological standpoint, said Sean Jeans-Gail, vice president of government affairs and policy with the Rail Passengers Association.

Many proposed routes would be on existing freight rail tracks, he said.

The FRA’s proposals would help undo 50 years of passenger train route reductions, he said.

“This is the first time in living memory that we’ve talked about expanding long-distance routes, rather than cutting them,” he said.

Implementing these proposed long-distance routes would be an easier lift from a financial perspective than some proposed passenger rail projects in states across the country because they would not require much state investment and no annual commitment, Jeans-Gail said.

Long-distance passenger trains serving destinations more than 750 miles apart are the funding responsibility of the federal government, while shorter routes require state funding support, Amtrak said.

The key will be getting Congress to fund these routes, said Radakovich, with All Aboard Ohio.



The routes would not start running until the 2030s if they are funded, Radakovich said, emphasizing that this could be a long journey, requiring tons of work and planning and the construction of new stations in Dayton and Columbus.

“That said, it really is possible and could definitely happen with the proper political support,” Radakovich said. “It is a generally popular investment among the people, so it is just a matter of the people communicating their opinions to elected leaders.”

In addition to the long-distance study, the FRA also has identified four routes in Ohio as priorities for Amtrak expansion, including a proposed line that links Dayton to Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

Planning work is underway for the proposed 3-C+D route, which is being paid for with federal grant money. The project likely would require significant state funding support.

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