New Task Force will Explore Airport-Downtown Rail Connection
In addition to the many small-yet-important initiatives announced at tonight’s State of the City address, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman called upon the development of a new task force that is being charged with improving the economic vitality of Port Columbus International Airport. That includes research into the feasibility of passenger rail service connecting Downtown to Port Columbus.
“The airport is located between three major job centers and tourist destinations — Downtown, Easton and the Ohio State University,” said Coleman in tonight’s address. “Yet neither our tourists nor our residents can take public mass transit to any of them from the airport. In fact, you cannot even take a bus directly from Port Columbus to Downtown without a transfer.”
The implementation of a rail-transit connector could utilize existing freight rail lines that run between the Convention Center and the area located immediately south of Port Columbus. Station placement has not been determined, but the conceptual placement of a rail station was detailed in the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan, which could be revisited. Additionally, an announcement last summer that proposed a high-speed rail line connecting Columbus to Chicago also includes a Port Columbus stop on the preliminary route map.
“The airport is geographically positioned to be a transportation center for rail service, bus service and more efficient car service. We need to explore the possibilities for the future,” said Coleman. “So the question is: Can we connect our Downtown to our airport by passenger rail?”
To answer that question, Coleman is turning to Dan Rosenthal, President of Milestone Aviation Group, who will chair the task force that will study the possibilities for improved transit connectivity in addition to increasing direct flights and expanding the economic development capabilities of the airport.
Currently, Port Columbus generates 33,000 jobs that contribute more than $1.1 billion annual in payroll. Coleman cited studies that indicate a potential to grow an additional 24,000 jobs around the airport.
“Port Columbus is located in the center of the state,” he explained. “It is in the center of the economy for Ohio, the center of government for Ohio, the center for higher education for Ohio, and should be the gateway to Ohio for the rest of the nation. No longer should we view Port Columbus as our local airport. Port Columbus is Ohio’s airport.”
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Visuals are from the 2010 Downtown Strategic Plan proposal for a Downtown Rail Station.