Ohio Amtrak expansion still on standby
2022 became the year Ohio's passenger rail hopes went from pipe dream to realistic possibility.
- But even with federal money now being dangled for the project, the state is still no closer to attaining it.
Driving the news: The Biden administration released guidelines this month for states to apply for $2.3 billion in passenger rail expansion funding.
Why it matters: No other project has the broad potential to meet Ohio's considerable workforce, transportation and tourism needs, especially with the booming infrastructure of recent years.
- Its eventual completion would be among the most significant infrastructure developments in Columbus history.
The latest: Amtrak officials recently presented a new map of rail lines proposed by states and planning agencies across the country.
- This "visionary map," as All Aboard Ohio executive director Stu Nicholson described it to us, has train advocates salivating.
Zoom in: If approved, all new train lines in Ohio would lead to Columbus.
- Direct routes would connect a downtown Amtrak station to Cincinnati; Toledo, Cleveland, Athens and Chillicothe, along with two out-of-state destinations: Pittsburgh and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
- It would also create relatively easy access to cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago and Louisville, Kentucky.
State of play: There's no doubt Amtrak wants to expand here.
- The Columbus City Council is on board, as is a bipartisan group of mayors, regional planners and state lawmakers.
Yes, but: The plan requires Ohio's OK, and Gov. Mike DeWine has offered neither public support nor opposition for it.
- His office has said it is waiting for the results of an ongoing Ohio Rail Development Commission feasibility study of cost and projected ridership to guide his thinking.
- "In a perfect world, you'd love to have passenger rail in the state of Ohio," DeWine told reporters last Thursday. "The question is: What is the cost going to be?"
What they're saying: Nicholson tells Axios he is still optimistic DeWine will pursue funding as a possible legacy project for his upcoming final term.
- "If he steps up and does what he should do right now, he deserves every moment in the sun of cutting the ribbon when [trains start] rolling."
Between the rail lines: The funding application deadline is March 7, meaning DeWine will need to make a decision soon.
More Columbus stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.