Mayors, Amtrak Make Pitch for Ohio Expansion
Amtrak officials are enlisting Ohio’s local leaders to make the case for the expansion of passenger rail service in the state.
At a virtual media event held yesterday with the mayors of Cleveland, Dayton and Crestline, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn stressed the importance of Ohio to the agency’s overall expansion plans.
Amtrak’s 2035 Vision plan calls for new and improved service around the country. In Ohio, Cleveland and Cincinnati would be connected, with stops in Columbus, Dayton and several other smaller cities – a route that is now being called the 3C+D Corridor.
“We’ve spent last few years developing our national strategy,” said Flynn, “and the 3C+D Corridor exemplifies the potential that exists across the country.”
A map of the proposed service was shared during the event, with some new details – trains would make three roundtrips daily, with an initial end-to-end trip time of five and a half hours. Flynn said that, with improvements, that time could be shaved to under five hours. Amtrak projects between 400,000 and 500,000 riders on the service annually.
Also participating in the event was William Murdock of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), which has been collecting letters of support for improved passenger rail from local leaders throughout the region.
“This really cuts across city-small town divide,” Murdock said. “We have 30 letters, from Democrats and Republicans, all clamoring for this service in Ohio.”
Rail advocates hope that that support endures, and that it can help to overcome the kind of issues that the state faced ten years ago, when Governor John Kasich rejected $400 million in federal funding that would’ve established a Cleveland-to-Cincinnati route, then called the 3-C line (his predecessor, Ted Strickland, had pushed the effort).
Although current Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has not come out in support of the 3C+D line, Murdock said that the state so far has been a “kind collaborator” with the agency as it works through its passenger rail planning efforts.
Dayton mayor Nan Whaley said that Amtrak has been much more involved in the process this time.
“Ten years ago, it was more state-driven than Amtrak-driven,” she said. “That’s a key difference, and the fact that this is about connecting to the national network…Amtrak driving this makes this a different story.”
Murdock also took the opportunity to mention the extensive planning work that MORPC and other entities have done on the Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago corridor. He called it a “complementary corridor” and stressed that it should be included on Amtrak’s 2035 map; “we think that it could only strengthen 3C+D.”
Thea Ewing, MORPC Director of Transportation & Infrastructure Development, laid out the case for the corridor in a recent press release:
“No direct highway or passenger railway serves the Pittsburgh-Columbus-Chicago corridor today, meaning the expanded service would forge a non-redundant, intercity connection linking some of the strongest-performing regions and transportation hubs of the Midwest. Communities – not only in Ohio, but throughout the state and in neighboring regions – see the potential economic benefit and, therefore, want to see the route completed.”
Ewing will be part of a panel discussing trains and transit today at the Columbus Metropolitan Club forum.
Additional Reading: Planners See “Window of Opportunity” for Amtrak in Ohio