Ohio looms large in Amtrak’s infrastructure spending plans

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Hamilton to proceed to next step toward making city a stop.

Four of Ohio’s six largest cities are key expansion areas for Amtrak as it plans how to spend its share of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn called the $66 billion it is expected to receive “absolutely transformational” and “more funding than we’ve had in our 50 years of history combined” during a recent interview with “Axios on HBO.”

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The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the U.S. House Friday also includes broadband and utility funding.

“Half of that would go into building out intercity passenger rail across the country where in many cases it practically doesn’t exist today,” said Flynn, who named Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus as cities for expansion, along with Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

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The city of Hamilton in Butler County started working with Amtrak months ago to bring a new rail station to the city.

“This weekend we have received word from Amtrak that we will proceed to the next step and continue discussions about making our city a stop for them,” Hamilton Vice Mayor Mike Ryan announced Monday on social media. “Make no mistake, we will do everything we can do make this happen and will give it our best effort.”

Ryan said Amtrak has one and potentially two routes that go through Hamilton it would like to expand. The process to add a rail stop is lengthy and requires cooperation from freight rail companies CSX and Norfolk Southern, he said. City officials will present an update on the Amtrak discussions at its December council meeting.

This is not the first time Amtrak has mentioned Ohio’s cities in its expansion plans.

Amtrak in February announced its proposal for five new routes in Ohio, pending approval of an infrastructure bill.

The routes proposed then were to connect Cincinnati with Cleveland, Indianapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and several other cities.

Dayton would have an intermediate station stop connecting Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, officials said.

As part of the plan, Ohio would gradually assume operational funding responsibilities, said Stu Nicholson, executive director for the transportation advocacy group All Aboard Ohio.

“They’ve done tweaks to different routes, and things like that, but there’s never been a national policy to go out and say, ‘Look, we want to provide more trains and more corridors, and serve more cities and more people.’ This is a first,” Nicholson said in February.

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