Amtrak representatives are making the rounds in Ohio, meeting with leaders in cities where they plan to expand services according to a blueprint the passenger rail company developed in conjunction with state and federal transportation officials. The goal, the Amtrak representatives said, is to pursue passenger rail expansion on five routes that would be initiated using 100 percent federal funds through a proposed new rail program.
The five new routes are:
- Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) Corridor: three daily round trips with intermediate station stops;
- Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago: four daily round trips with intermediate station stops;
- Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit-Pontiac: three daily round trips with intermediate station stops, including a possible extension of Wolverine Corridor train service from Chicago;
- Cleveland-Buffalo-Albany-New York: two daily round trips with intermediate station stops;
- Cleveland-Pittsburgh-New York: one daily round trip with intermediate station stops via an extension of Keystone Corridor train service.
The new federal passenger rail program depends on support from Congress and the new Biden Administration. President Joe Biden, a longtime passenger rail supporter, has vowed a “second great railroad revolution.” And last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed the proposed new rail funding program but it died in the U.S. Senate. Now, with a split Senate under new leadership, the bill has a good chance to become reality.
All Aboard Ohio understand that Congress could take action in the coming month on approving this new program. Amtrak is requesting $300 million per year from Congress to develop high-potential corridors (corridors are routes under 750 miles). The Ohio routes are among those nationwide that Amtrak identified as having a high potential of success.
However, for Ohio to gain new passenger services, the Ohio Department of Transportation will have to request it from Amtrak or other operators. Once an agreement is in place with a state entity, Amtrak may pay up to 100 percent of the capital costs to initiate new or additional services. Amtrak may also provide 100 percent of the operating costs in the first two years, 90 percent in the third year, 80 percent in the fourth year and 50 percent in the fifth year. After that, the new service must be state supported in the same manner that 16 other states currently purchase service from Amtrak.
Ohio’s General Assembly will soon be reviewing the Ohio Department of Transportation‘s (ODOT) biennial budget which must be approved this spring. In this budget, Ohio needs to authorize the development of federally compliant corridor plans so it can reach a contract with Amtrak or another passenger rail provider. If it doesn’t, Ohioans may have to wait another two years for the next ODOT budget before any progress can begin.
It’s time for Ohio — the nation’s most populous state without a passenger rail program — to finally step up. In the past, Ohio had to pay some if not all of the capital costs of starting up new passenger rail services and purchasing continued services on an annual or bi-annual basis. Yes, there was a risk of failure in that. But the pursuit of success always carries a risk of failure. If Congress and the Biden Administration approve this rail corridor development program, as they are expected to do, Ohio simply isn’t going to get a better deal than this.
Please contact the governor and both of your state lawmakers today!
SAMPLE MESSAGE: In your own words, politely ask “Please include in the Ohio Department of Transportation’s budget an authorization and a small amount of funding to partner with railroads, communities, other states and the federal government in the planning of routes, stations, services and infrastructure improvements for an introductory level of safe, convenient and cost-effective passenger train services.”
If you have a little more time and motivation, kindly tell your lawmaker a personal reason why you would use an Ohio passenger train service. Unlike statistics, personal stories are often unassailable.
on January 29, 2021originally appeared in All Aboard Ohio