Dec 7, 2023 - News

4 Ohio routes selected for passenger rail expansion

An Amtrak train leaves a railyard

An Amtrak train in 2022. Photo: Luke Sharrett/AFP via Getty Images

Ohio's three largest cities — Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati — haven't been connected directly by rail since 1967.

  • But the dream of a new passenger rail line is now one step closer to reality.

Driving the news: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) this week announced that four Ohio routes had been selected as priorities for railroad expansion.

  • $500,000 will be allocated for officials from the state, Amtrak and local metropolitan planning organizations to identify engineering and capital needs to initiate or expand rail service for each route.

Details: The lines include the so-called "3C+D" route (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and Dayton), and a route connecting Cleveland to Detroit via Toledo.

  • Plus: The other chosen route would connect Columbus to Chicago and Pittsburgh and would expand service on an existing route that connects New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago and passes through Cincinnati.

What they're saying: "Good Amtrak service shouldn't be a privilege only for people on the coasts," Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement.

  • "These new routes would expand opportunity, help grow businesses and create jobs, and connect communities in Ohio and across the Midwest."

Catch up quick: As part of the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law, the U.S. Department of Transportation established a program to identify potential intercity passenger rail corridors.

Zoom in: The 3C+D line, as envisioned by Amtrak, would make three daily round trips with a travel time of five-and-a-half hours.

  • Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner previously estimated that the route would carry 400,000-500,000 passengers per year (1,000-2,000 per day).
  • It would require the construction of seven new stations, including one at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

What's next: The development process is a lengthy one, and new rail service is still likely 4-5 years away. But the four Ohio corridors will receive priority in future funding competitions, including $2.4 billion available annually from the FRA through 2026.

The bottom line: "If you advocate for passenger rail in Ohio, (Tuesday) was a great day," Stu Nicholson, former executive director for All Aboard Ohio and longtime train advocate, told Axios. "It's not the final step, but it's a big step forward for Ohio and the Midwest."

Axios Columbus' Tyler Buchanan contributed to this report.

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