Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Open houses for East Side commuter rail study begin tonight

The first of three open houses for the Oasis Commuter Rail study will be held this evening from 5 P.M.-8 P.M. at the LeBlond Recreation Center, 2335 Riverside Drive in the East End.

The Ohio Department of Transportation study will explore the feasibility of incorporating commuter rail service along a 17-mile-long line from Downtown's Riverfront Transit Center to the I-275/U.S. 50 interchange in Milford.

The idea emerged in 2006 from the Eastern Corridor Study's Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision (ROD) as one of four long-term solutions to address mobility and connectivity concerns in a 165-square-mile area from approximately Downtown Cincinnati eastward to the I-275 corridor in Clermont County.

"Our goal right now is to take an in-depth look at the commuter rail option and determine its feasibility in terms of function, constructability and affordability," said ODOT project manager Andy Fluegemann. "We will examine possible alignments and station locations, and evaluate which rail technologies would best meet the region's needs. We also will be looking at estimated costs and the projected return on investment for the region."

Currently, the project is divided into four segments: one mile between the Riverfront Transit Center and the Montgomery Inn Boathouse; seven miles between the Montgomery Inn Boathouse and U.S. 50 in Fairfax; four miles between Fairfax and Ancor, just northeast of Newtown; and five miles between Ancor and Milford.

Tentative station locations include the Riverfront Transit Center, Adams Crossing, the East End near Torrence Parkway, Columbia Parkway and Delta Avenue, Lunken Airport, Beechmont Avenue and Wooster Pike, Red Bank Road, Newtown Road, Ancor/Broadwell Road, and Milford.

Cost estimates are $411 million.

Alternatives will be refined through engineering, environmental analysis and comparative impact evaluation, with a preferred alternative – or a no-build option – selected early next year.

The project team will rely heavily on public input. Many East Side communities, such as Columbia Tusculum, the East End, Mount Adams, and Newtown, have expressed strong reservations about commuter trains coming through their neighborhoods.

Additional open houses will be held Wednesday from 5 P.M.-8 P.M. at the R.G. Cribbet (Fairfax) Recreation Center, 5903 Hawthorne Avenue, and Thursday from 5 P.M.-8 P.M. at the Milford High School cafeteria, 1 Eagles Way.

For all three open houses, an open comment and Q&A session begins at 7 P.M.

"People living in communities to be served by the Oasis Commuter Rail line have an on-the-ground knowledge of the areas we are studying and may have valuable information that should be considered during the evaluation process," Fluegemann said.

According to the ROD, transportation routes in the corridor exceed their design capacity, and average daily traffic volumes on interstates and major arteries are expected increase up to 81 percent by 2030.

Three other multi-modal components are also under consideration: expanded bus transit, additional highway capacity, and multiple local transportation network improvements.

An updated Eastern Corridor project website was launched in late March, and additional information on the Oasis commuter rail line will be added as the study moves forward.

ODOT will accept public comments on materials presented at the open houses through April 22, either in person or on the project website.

Previous reading on BC:
Streetcar tentatively awarded $15M, other projects recommended (3/22/10)
Caution, communication needed in 3C Corridor choices (8/6/09)
East Row: Keep Ohio commuters in Ohio (3/21/08)
Qualls submits OKI 2030 recommendations (1/8/08)