Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Report: 3C 'Quick Start' could save Ohioans $36M per year, pay off in five years

A new report (PDF) by passenger rail advocacy group All Aboard Ohio finds that Ohio's 3C "Quick Start" service could end up saving Ohioans more than $36 million per year, nearly double the state's proposed contract with an operator to run the trains.

The savings, plus an estimated $111 million in additional annual consumer spending, means that the estimated one-time start-up investment of $517 million could be recouped in less than five years, the report says.

The report does not take into account additional spinoff benefits like increased property values and real estate development near the rail line and its stations.

"This detailed document shows that, without a doubt, Ohio's citizens will see real benefits from 3C rail service," says All Aboard Ohio president Bill Hutchison. "With numbers like these, the 3C 'Quick Start' passenger rail plan is clearly an economic stimulus. It really is time to get Ohio moving on passenger trains!"

The "Quick Start" plan, which would connect the densely-populated travel corridor of Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati with conventional-speed passenger trains traveling along existing rail lines, is the first step in the proposed $1.53 billion 3C Corridor, part of the Ohio Hub high-speed rail network that will tie into the Midwest Regional Rail to the west and the Empire and Keystone corridors to the east.

The state's $17 million annual operating support for the 3C trains would represent just 0.4 percent of the Ohio Department of Transportation's budget, All Aboard Ohio says, noting that less than two percent of ODOT's $3.8 billion budget is spent on transportation modes other than roads.

It also says that no funding will be diverted from road or public transit projects to pay for 3C trains.

Later this fall, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration will determine which states receive a share of the $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds made available for passenger rail.

Ohio is seeking $400 million of the "Quick Start" project cost and, if funded, the service could be running by as soon as 2011.

In Cincinnati, the Ohio Rail Development Coalition (ORDC) has recommended a site near Lunken Airport for a temporary passenger station, despite the Department of City Planning and Buildings' – and the ORDC's – recommendations of a site near the Montgomery Inn Boathouse.

Community leaders, residents, and developers, such as Arn Bortz of Towne Properties, spoke out against the "Boathouse" site, citing fears about noise, pollution, safety, and loss of property values.

Both Cincinnati Union Terminal and Longworth Hall were ruled out as options by City staff due to freight congestion along the Mill Creek corridor.

Another group lends support

The board of TransportationMATTERS, a statewide coalition advocating for full funding of multiple modes of travel in the state of Ohio, has passed a resolution of support for Ohio's 3C Passenger Rail "Quick Start" plan, saying it will increase the overall quality of life for Ohioans.

The group says that the plan would empower more than 60 percent of Ohioans with greater transportation choices, increase mobility for Ohioans without motor vehicles, and reduce highway wear and greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution also says that 3C passenger rail will stimulate the economy in Ohio, providing jobs and increasing property values between 10 and 30 percent within a quarter-mile of rail stations.

Cincinnati City Councilmember Roxanne Qualls and Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments executive director Mark Policinski serve on the TransportationMATTERS board.

Photo credit: "Amtrak CA 2007 E 8-25-09 2" by THE Holy Hand Grenade!, courtesy of Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic license.

Previous reading on BC:
Caution, communication needed in 3C corridor choices (8/6/09)
Cincinnati EDC to consider resolution of support for Ohio passenger rail service (2/23/09)
All Aboard Ohio: Stimulus bill may ignore Ohio's train and transit needs (1/21/09)