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Midwest Passenger Rail Plan Advances

Ohio rail advocates received good news from the Federal Railroad Administration: The Buckeye State will be included in an FRA study to expand its now meager service, but support from Republican Gov. John Kasich is unlikely judging from his record.
September 2, 2015, 12pm PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Ohio’s passenger rail offerings will be looked at as part of a recently-announced $2.78 million federal study of rail planning in the Midwest, which proponents hope will change the future of travel here," writes Amanda Seitz for the Dayton Daily News. 

All of the routes shown on this map have at least one daily passenger train scheduled in each direction. Most routes have 2-5 daily passenger trains. Start of service to Quad Cities and Rockford delayed.

Credit: All Aboard Ohio

Minnesota Department of Transportation: Midwest Regional Rail Initiative

"Amtrak only runs two lines in Ohio, one through Cleveland and the other in Cincinnati," writes Seitz. "The Cincinnati stop is infamous for its bad timing — it drops off passengers only three times a week around 3 a.m. at Union Terminal in downtown Cincinnati."

“We’re disconnected,” said Derek Bauman, the southwest Ohio director for All Aboard Ohio, a group that advocates for more rail travel in the state.

The funding was awarded as a result of a November 2014 application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) by the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC), notwithstanding Gov. John Kasich's decision to drop the state's membership in the multi-state planning group, notes Seitz. Progressive Railroading clarifies that the $2.78 million will be split with a study of passenger rail expansion in the Southeast.

Both All Aboard Ohio and the Northeast Indiana Passenger Rail Association announced the award on their websites.

The funding process was initiated with a request by MIPRC "for FY 2015 federal transportation appropriations to the US House Transportation, Housing & Urban Development (THUD) subcommittee of Appropriations."

Seitz cautioned the advocates that the expansion plans "have almost zero support at the state level."

Readers may remember that when Gov. Kasich, now a Republican presidential candidate, took office in 2011, he rejected $450 million in federal stimulus funds for improving rail service to Ohio's three major cities: Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, saying it "would cost too much and run too slowly to be more convenient than driving or flying."

Then-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appealed directly to Gov. Kasich and new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to accept the funds, warning them they could not be redirected to road or freight rail projects in the states as they had hoped to do.

However, on the local level, government may be far more hospitable to Amtrak service. Residents of Oxford in southwest Ohio, pop. 21,371 at the 2010 census, had petitioned successfully for a rail stop, "but it’s likely the city and Miami (University) will pay for construction of the stop," writes Seitz.

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Published on Monday, August 31, 2015 in Dayton Daily News
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