Nov 7, 2022 - News

Ohio's latest push for passenger rail

An illustration of A freight train with money coming out of the smoke stack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Mayors and planners across Ohio have shipped their passenger rail wish lists to the federal government.

  • In a series of letters, officials said a top priority remains a "3C+D" line linking Columbus to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton, with a possible connection to John Glenn International Airport.

Why it matters: This broad bipartisan support for Ohio Amtrak expansion at the local level could pressure state officials who have mostly stayed mum on the topic.

What's more: The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) also wants to help plan a "Midwest Connect" between Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh.

  • Other possible Columbus routes include a corridor to Lancaster, Logan and Athens, plus one to Chillicothe and Portsmouth.
  • The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, meanwhile, hopes to link the capital city and Detroit.

Of note: Columbus is the second-largest U.S. city without intercity rail, behind Phoenix.

Catch up quick: The bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law last year included $66 billion for passenger rail expansion across the country.

  • This spring, Gov. Mike DeWine asked the Ohio Rail Development Commission to analyze cost and feasibility but he has not expressed any opinions on the matter.

The latest: That review is still ongoing, DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney tells Axios. He didn't provide details on whether DeWine, if reelected tomorrow, would support expansion in Ohio or if the state would apply for federal funds.

Yes, but: Rail enthusiasts are already dreaming of possibilities, especially after seeing these renderings of a proposed Greater Columbus Convention Center Amtrak station.

  • In its letter, MORPC says it has received "tremendous feedback" from community members and public and private partners requesting passenger rail service return to the region.

Reality check: Some activists are feeling a bit of deja vu. Ohio was on track to receive federal funding toward a "3C line" in 2010 before then-Gov. John Kasich rejected the project.

  • Stu Nicholson, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group All Aboard Ohio, is hopeful for a different outcome this time.

"The support we have for this today is even greater than what we had 12 years ago," Nicholson tells Axios. "I think this is probably the best shot we've ever had."


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