Ohio takes first step to expand passenger rail

Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati ‘3C&D line’ under consideration.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that he has directed the Ohio Rail Development Commission to apply for the first phase of funding to study expanding passenger rail service in Ohio.

The state has identified two corridors to advance for consideration: Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati, the “3C&D line,” and Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit.

“This is the first step of many in this process. We have a lot of questions that need to be answered before we make any commitments,” said DeWine. “The information we gather from this effort will help us make informed decisions about federal opportunities for passenger rail in Ohio.”

At present, Amtrak’s routes dip into Ohio largely along the northern and southern borders of the state. In southwest Ohio, riders 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 west toward Chicago.

If the application is successful, the Federal Railroad Administration would provide $500,000 per corridor as part of the Corridor ID Program to assist the state in assessing potential intercity rail development, according to a release from the governor’s office.

Ohio would use the funds to bring in a consultant to prepare a plan that includes information about the track improvements, equipment, stations and other facilities, operating costs, ridership, and required state subsidy needed to start service, the release stated.

The state has been talking with Amtrak for “quite some time” to explore options and gather information, said Matthew Dietrich, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission.

“The governor has been very clear that for this to work for Ohio, it is not just a matter of cost. It has to be done in a way that does not impede freight rail traffic in the state that is so important to our economy and our businesses,” Dietrich said.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he applauds DeWine and other regional leaders for starting the process to pursue Amtrak expansion.

“Expanding Amtrak in Ohio, whether along current routes or by connecting Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati, would transform our state’s economy and improve mobility for all Ohioans. I will continue to fight to make Ohio’s transit more reliable and efficient so more Ohioans can access employment and education opportunities across the state,” Brown said.

In May of last year, Amtrak President Stephen Gardner estimated that the line would cost $100 million to build and provide a $130 million boost to Ohio’s economy every year.

Applications are due by March 27 for Corridor ID Program funding.

Staff Writer Avery Kreemer contributed to this report.

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