Monday, October 5, 2009

State, county organizations support passenger rail

Two planning organizations – one state and one county – have passed resolutions of support for Ohio's 3C Corridor "Quick Start" passenger rail plan, a nearly $600 million project that would connect Cincinnati with Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland along existing rail lines.

Greater Ohio, a Columbus-based non-profit dedicated to smart growth and better governance, calls the plan "real progress", saying that it marks a milestone in the effort to bring Ohio's transportation system up to a world-class level.
The group says that the system would not only reduce our dependence on oil and lower emissions, but would provide more transportation choices to business professionals, vacationers, college students, and long distance commuters.

It would also save money by moving cars off of the road and reducing the costs of highway construction and maintenance.

"It is time we start thinking about moving people, and not just cars," said Gene Krebs, co-director of Greater Ohio. "Our economy is increasingly tied to our mobility. Developing passenger rail service in Ohio will give us a better transportation option while reducing pollution and congestion, and creating jobs and spurring new economic development."

On a local level, the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission (HCRPC) unanimously passed a resolution supporting "Quick Start", arguing that the project would increase travel choice to 60 percent of Ohio's population, generate jobs, and spur economic development.

The county would also benefit from the construction of two rail stops in Cincinnati and Sharonville, and from the resulting investment around those stops, the HCRPC says.

"Ohioans need better travel choices to create more jobs and economic development in a safe, productive, energy efficient and environmentally sensitive manner that enhances our cities and towns," the HCRPC resolution says.

The resolution also states the HCRPC's opposition to Cincinnati's Issue 9, saying it would negatively affect the 3C Corridor's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funding request and would likely result in rail service bypassing the county's urban core.

Passage of Issue 9 would detract from the future prosperity of many of the county's jurisdictions, the resolution says.

Application submitted

At rallies in Columbus and in Cleveland last Thursday, the Ohio Department of Transportation and Ohio Rail Development Coalition began submitting its request for a piece of $8 billion in ARRA passenger rail funding, requesting:

  • $236.2 million for capacity improvements
  • $175 million for five train sets
  • $55 million for train maintenance
  • $36.5 million for track upgrades
  • $32 million for grade crossing upgrades
  • $29.1 million for stations
A 30 percent contingency for capacity additions, track upgrades, and layover facilities has been included in each dollar request, as has a 20 percent contingency for rail stations.

A recent study by Amtrak projects 478,000 riders annually for the service, which would rank "Quick Start" as the nation's 12th largest generator of passenger rail traffic.

Depending on the timing of federal government funding, the service could be running as early as 2011.

"Amtrak 662" photo by njt4148, courtesy of Flickr, through the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Previous reading on BC:
Report: 3C 'Quick Start' could save Ohioans $36M per year, pay off in five years (9/29/09)
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)