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Amtrak's planned Ohio expansion seen by local leaders as big win while the state waits for details

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Posted at 6:24 PM, May 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-18 18:50:08-04

CLEVELAND — Local Ohio leaders met by Zoom with both the President and the CEO of Amtrak Tuesday to learn more about their plan to increase rail service to Ohio as part of an $80 billion expansion of service.

The “3C+D” rail line would connect Cleveland and Cincinnati by rail with stops in Columbus and Dayton.

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A map of the proposed 3C+D corridor expansion.

By 2035, Amtrak would hope to see three round trips a day on the line with an initial end-to-end trip time of 5 hours and 30 minutes, eventually bringing it down to 4 hours, 55 minutes.

The corridor may be inner-state, but proponents of the plan, like Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, say it is key to opening up Ohio's economy on an interstate level.

"Where there's good, effective and efficient modes of transportation, you will always get commerce to flow and investment opportunities to occur,” Jackson said.

Amtrak leaders called Ohio an underserved market. Columbus, for example, is the largest city in the nation without any rail service.

"We think is not just a lot of sense, it's common sense,” said William Murdock, Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

There has of course been talk in the past about re-establishing a rail connection between these key Ohio cities. In 2010, the Obama administration offered the state $400 million to build a high-speed rail line between them. Then-Governor Ted Strickland initially said yes, but when he lost his re-election bid, new Governor John Kasich said no, citing the costs down the road to the state and the fact that the high-speed rail line would move at an average speed of 39 miles per hour.

Those average speeds have increased with technology, but is that enough for Governor Mike DeWine to sign off on the project? He said last month the devil will be in the details, and he's waiting to hear them.

"I think we have to know more, we have to know what the state's involvement will be, what kind of costs there would be for the state,” DeWine said. “So I don't think that's clear, so I would certainly reserve judgment until we get more information about it."

One key difference this time: supporters like Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley argue it will be Amtrak taking the lead on this.

"Ten years ago, it was more state-driven then, Amtrak driving makes this a key difference than before,” she said.

Amtrak projects there would be up to 500,000 riders a year on the line. In addition, the expansion would see Cleveland be more of a hub for increased service across the country.