Amtrak proposal could expand passenger routes through southwest Ohio

Amtrak has proposed five new routes that include several Ohio cities.

The expanded passenger train service would include Dayton, Cincinnati and as far north as Cleveland. However, the new routes are dependent on support from Ohio and the federal government.

The additional routes would be initiated with federal funds from a proposed new federal passenger rail program.

A release from All Aboard Ohio, a transportation advocacy group, shows the proposed routes would connect Cincinnati with Cleveland, Indianapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and several other cities.

Dayton would have a round trip intermediate station stop connecting Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati.

The routes include:

- Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati (3C) Corridor: three daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

- Cincinnati-Indianapolis-Chicago: four daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

- Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit-Pontiac: three daily round trips with intermediate station stops, including a possible extension of Wolverine Corridor train service from Chicago.

- Cleveland-Buffalo-Albany-New York: two daily round trips with intermediate station stops.

- Cleveland-Pittsburgh-New York: one daily round trip with intermediate station stops via an extension of Keystone Corridor train service.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the proposed infrastructure improvements would consist of track infrastructure capacity additions, signals, track speed improvements, grade crossing safety improvements, stations, equipment, and service, inspection and layover facilities within or adjacent to existing railroad rights-of-way within the corridor to avoid and minimize impacts.

“This Corridor Development Program is a major policy shift for Amtrak,” said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Stu Nicholson in a release. “Since it began in 1971, Amtrak has been largely reactive and not proactive when it comes to its growth. This policy shift is very welcome and long overdue when it comes to dealing with states like Ohio that have almost no service and thus almost no political constituency to create a passenger rail development program. We hope that Congress will authorize and fully fund this Corridor Development Program.”

Amtrak officials have been making their rounds with Ohio leaders but the funding is dependent on support from Congress and the Biden administration.

In the last year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a new rail funding program but it died in the U.S. Senate.

President Joe Biden, a longtime passenger rail supporter, vowed a second great railroad revolution.

“It’s time for Ohio — the nation’s most populous state without a passenger rail program — to finally step up,” All Aboard Ohio said in a post. “In the past, Ohio had to pay some if not all of the capital costs of starting up new passenger rail services and purchasing continued services on an annual or bi-annual basis. Yes, there was a risk of failure in that. But the pursuit of success always carries a risk of failure. If Congress and the Biden Administration approve this rail corridor development program, as they are expected to do, Ohio simply isn’t going to get a better deal than this.”

All Aboard Ohio also said potential locations include Middletown and Oxford.

The proposal also needs state support. Once it has an agreement with a state, the company may pay up to 100 percent of the capital costs to start new or additional services, plus 100 percent of operating costs in the first two years, 90 percent in the third year, 80 percent in the fourth year and 50 percent in the fifth year.

Ohio’s Department of Transportation biennial budget is up for approval from the General Assembly in spring.

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