Friday, March 1, 2013

Portune: Make passenger rail a reality by 2015 All-Star Game

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune introduced a resolution during Monday's meeting of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District (HCTID) board to make passenger rail service a reality in time for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game.

Specifically, Portune, who chairs the board, is calling for HCTID support of the Oasis Rail Transit project, part of the Eastern Corridor multi-modal transportation improvement initiative to address mobility and connectivity within the 165 square miles between central Cincinnati and western Clermont County.

Envisioned as part of a future regional rail system, the Oasis Rail Transit project would connect approximately 17 miles between Downtown Cincinnati and the City of Milford along both new and existing tracks. At least 10 stations would be built along the line, providing opportunities for compact, mixed-use transit-oriented development in the communities they serve.

"We have an extraordinary opportunity to extend the dynamic transformation that is already happening along our riverfront by bringing passenger rail service – and all of the economic and community benefits that come with it – to Greater Cincinnati," Portune said in a prepared release.

The rail line was awarded funding last fall through Ohio House Bill 114, which provided allow the project to secure right-of-way between the Riverfront Transit Center and the Montgomery Inn Boathouse. In fact, most of the right-of-way needed is already owned by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, making it a logical starting point.

In 2011, the project was estimated to cost $411 million. The project is currently in the environmental analysis and preliminary engineering phase.

"The Oasis Rail line is a historic opportunity," said Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments Executive Director Mark Policinski. "It is an integral piece of OKI's Long Range Plan to spark new economic development while addressing the growing number of commuters that are crowding our highways and community roadways."

Other passenger rail lines envisioned as part of the regional system include the Wasson Line, from Xavier University to Eastgate; I-71 from the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Blue Ash; I-75 to Union Centre Boulevard in West Chester Township; I-471 to Northern Kentucky University; I-74 to Green Township; and U.S. 50 to Lawrenceburg.

Monday's resolution is a "clear and formal indication" that the board will do everything in its power to make this first step in regional passesnger rail service happen by July 2015, Portune said.

"Regional passenger rail isn't a pipe dream, nor is something for the far off future," Portune said. "It is here. Now. We can make this happen by 2015, but it will take a regional commitment from our local municipalities, chambers of commerce, state agencies and leaders to remove any barriers. If we could make it to the moon in less than a decade, I'm pretty sure we can get a train running to the Riverfront Transit Center in two years.”

Previous reading on BC:
Historic preservation review beginning for SR 32 relocation (2/4/13)
TRAC accepts 2014-2017 draft for road projects, accepting public comment (12/21/12)
Open houses for East Side commuter rail study begin tonight (4/5/11)
Streetcar tentatively awarded $15M, other projects recommended (3/22/10)
Caution, communication needed in 3C Corridor choices (8/6/09)