COLUMBUS (WCMH) – For the first time in more than 40 years, a new mode of transportation could soon be available for Ohio travelers. Amtrak recently proposed adding 5 new passenger rail routes connecting major Ohio cities.
The proposed Ohio routes include the following:
- 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.
“It’s something that Ohioans and Ohio have been lacking for a long time,” said Stu Nicholson, the executive director of All Aboard Ohio, adding Ohio is the nation’s populous state without such a service.
The advocacy group has been pushing for more public transportation throughout the state and Nicholson believes the recent proposal could be coming at the right time for it to be attainable.
A federal transportation bill with funding for similar projects passed the U.S. House but failed to receive approval from the Senate several years ago. Nicholson said the odds are better with a democratic majority in both chambers. Likewise, President Joe Biden and newly sworn-in transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg have previously expressed support for investing in rail infrastructure.
The five new passenger rail routes in Ohio are part of Amtrak’s broader plan to expand its services nationwide.
In a statement to NBC4, Amtrak explained,
“Frequent and reliable corridor routes of typically less than 500 miles represent the fastest-growing segment of Amtrak service. Population growth, changing demographics, travel preferences and environmental concerns all point to new opportunities for intercity passenger rail. We have developed a visionary plan to expand rail service across the nation, providing service to large metropolitan areas that have little or no Amtrak service.
We are working with our state partners, local officials and other stakeholders to understand their interests in new and improved Amtrak service and will be releasing that plan soon. We will call on Congress to authorize and fund Amtrak’s expansion in such corridors by allowing us to cover most of the initial capital and operating costs of new or expanded routes.”
The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) said it’s currently unclear what the state’s role will be in the development of the new routes, if approved by Congress.
A spokesperson said,
“ORDC and ODOT have been briefed by Amtrak on their proposal for the federal transportation bill. The plan involves both statutory changes and funding requests at the federal level for current and expanded passenger service in the Country. At the current time, the role of the state in the plan is not clear and we are not aware of any needed action by Ohio at this time. We look forward to hearing more about what Amtrak’s proposal could mean to Ohio as the federal transportation bill advances through that process.”
Nicholson said the expansion of a passenger rail service would not be a practical asset for both travel, mobility and economic growth across Ohio.
“The important thing about this, I think, is the connectivity it brings to Ohioans who are in need of connecting with new jobs, education, healthcare,” he explained.
He said travel by rail would not only appeal to older generations used to the concept and attracted to its nostalgia, but also to younger generations looking to access large urban areas without using cars.
“This also sets the stage for more and better down the road,” he added. “Once you get a service established, people find it and use it and begin to really say, ‘Hey this is a good way to travel.’”
If the transportation bill receives federal approval, Nicholson estimates it would take at least five years for the rail system to start carrying passengers. Amtrak said the next steps would involve local feedback about where potential train stations and tracks would be located.