CLEVELAND — Good news for those looking to see the expansion of passenger rail service in Ohio. Gov. Mike DeWine has directed the Ohio Rail Development Commission to apply for the first phase of funding to begin the process of studying the matter.
Since Amtrak first floated the idea of expanding rail service in the state, specifically a 3C+D line re-establishing service between Cleveland and Cincinnati with stops in Columbus and Dayton, DeWine had long said he would need to know what the costs were to the state.
This grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development program would assist the state in assessing potential intercity passenger rail corridors. “This is the first step of many in this process," the governor said in a statement. "We have a lot of questions that need to be answered before we make any commitments. The information we gather from this effort will help us make informed decisions about federal opportunities for passenger rail in Ohio.”
"This is the news we've all been waiting for," said Stu Nicholson, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. "Anybody who has ever advocated along the way for more and better passenger rail in Ohio this is, this is a really good moment."
This doesn't commit the state to anything but helps to answer the governor's questions he told Nes 5 centered around costs, yes, but those costs were tied to routes, ridership and speed of the train.
"They're not going to use it, they're not going to do that if they can't get from Cleveland to Cincinnati at least in as good a time as it would take them to get in their car and drive," DeWine told News 5 in December.
Nicholson says they are legitimate concerns.
"I mean you have to ask those questions and this is how you get the answers. I feel very confident that the study is going to show that going the next steps are justified. I think the ridership is there, I think the cost is worth the investment. I mean when you consider that the State of Ohio is right now as we speak spending close to $2 billion for a one mile long interchange in downtown Columbus, the investment that we're talking about in passenger rail is a fraction of that," Nicholson said.
The Federal Railroad Administration is offering $500,000 per corridor the state chooses to study. The state will be applying for two grants: One to study the 3C+D corridor and another to study a Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit route. Nicholson said they should also seek funds to study other routes advocated for by the Northeast Ohio Coordinating Agency (NOACA) like Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Cleveland-Buffalo.
"We have to make sure that these other corridors aren't ignored," he said, adding he's just happy to have cleared this first hurdle. "That's a task ahead of us, for right now I want everybody who has advocated for this to say a very loud and public thank you to the governor for finally stepping up and saying that the state of Ohio needs to take the lead on this."