Passenger rail could inject millions into Dayton region economy, study says

Nonprofit All Aboard Ohio emphasizes state is early in planning process; if found feasible, 3-C+D route could start around 2030

New proposed passenger rail service linking Dayton to Ohio’s largest cities could pump millions of dollars into the regional economy each year and serve hundreds of thousands of riders across the state, according to estimates from a study that was shared with community members and local officials on Thursday.

But the vision for an intercity route that serves the Gem City and Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati remains a long way from happening and making it a reality will require a lot of work, planning, research and advocacy.

“This would connect our cities, our communities, our people with transportation options and would provide many benefits, like mobility of workforce, attraction of businesses ... and more economic development and jobs in Ohio,” said Erin Rosiello, chair of All Aboard Ohio, who grew up in Dayton.

Executive officers and staff with a nonprofit called All Aboard Ohio visited Dayton on Thursday as part of a “whistle stop tour.”

The organization, which is focused on improving passenger rail in the state, is hosting community meetings primarily in Ohio’s largest metro areas to share information about efforts to study new and expanded passenger rail service.

Dozens of community members, local elected leaders, planners and other officials attended the event.

Last month, the Federal Railroad Administration announced it has identified four potential routes in Ohio for passenger rail expansion.

The agency has awarded $500,000 in federal grants for each of the routes, which is the first step in a three-stage process to study and plan new and enhanced service.

One proposed route would connect Ohio’s four largest metro areas: Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati.

The line, known as the 3-C+Dayton corridor, would have a stop in Dayton and possibly Springfield.

In the greater Dayton region, the 3-C+Dayton route could have an annual economic impact of between $4.9 million and $9 million, according to a study by Scioto Analysis that was completed for All Aboard Ohio.

The new service could have an annual ridership of between 91,000 and 184,000 people in the greater Dayton region alone, the study states.

Total annual ridership, from all metro areas, could range from 407,000 and 820,000 customers. All Aboard Ohio says those are very conservative estimates. They did not give any type of breakdown between projected everyday or weekly travelers, vs. once or twice a year travelers.

Part of the sales pitch for the new 3-C+D corridor is that it would create jobs, expand transportation options and improve worker mobility, better connecting Ohioans to job opportunities.

The $500,000 grant for the 3-C+D corridor is the first step in a process meant to produce planning and research information about a new route and service.

“We are at the very beginning of step 1,” said John Easterly, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “This first step is really the plan for the plan.”

The second step likely would look at what existing freight lines would be used, where the stations and stops would be and how many trains would operate each day, Easterly said.

Ohio already has 5,000 miles of existing rail track, and passenger service would be added onto existing infrastructure, though upgrades would be necessary, advocates said.

Easterly said the planning process is designed to figure out how the new passenger rail service would operate, potential ridership and revenue estimates, and what the costs could be to the general public, sponsors and partners.

“At the end of this three-step process, we’re going to have a very clear view of what this is going to look like economically and what this is going to look like in terms of the impact it’s going to have on the residents of Ohio,” he said.

The planning process could take years, and if the 3-C+D corridor actually comes to fruition, it might not begin operations and service until around 2030, All Aboard Ohio said.

The initial investment in the new route could be between $21 million to $27 million in the Greater Dayton region, said Scioto Analysis.

The initial investment in all targeted communities could contribute roughly $107 million to Ohio’s gross state product, with an ongoing annual economic contribution of $25 million to $47 million, the study found. Again, Rosiello called those very conservative estimates.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said a team has been meeting to discuss the potential 3-C+D corridor project.

She said Dayton’s station might be near site of the former Dayton Union Station, which was located near Sixth Street in downtown. The station was demolished decades ago.

Dayton hasn’t had passenger rail since 1979.

“The station will be relocated near where Union Station was,” she said. “I’d love to see the old building reimagined or incorporated in the new design.”

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