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Ohio Train Expansion Depends on Fed. Infrastructure Bill

February 3, 2021

Ohio Passenger Train Expansion Depends on Federal Infrastructure Bill

An Amtrak service expansion vision, publicized during a September Rail Passenger webinar, caught the imagination of the state of Ohio this week, generating a flurry of media coverage from local media outlets.

The draft proposal, which Amtrak based in large part on new funding programs included in the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2), is not new. But a presentation to Ashtabula, Ohio’s city manager found its way into the Ashtabula Star Beacon. From there, an Amtrak proposal for expanded and improved statewide service caught the public’s imagination.

And there’s certainly plenty to be excited about. Amtrak’s draft proposal calls for a new “3C Corridor” to connect Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati with thrice-daily roundtrips; four daily roundtrips between Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago; three daily round trips between Cleveland, Toledo, Detroit and Pontiac; twice daily round trips between Cleveland, Buffalo, Albany and New York; and daily round trips between Cleveland, Pittsburgh and New York.

“We have developed a visionary plan to expand rail service across the nation, providing service to large metropolitan areas that have little or no Amtrak service,” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told reporters. “We are working with our state partners, local officials and other stakeholders to understand their interests in new and improved Amtrak and will be releasing that plan soon.”

Local advocates have played their role as well, lauding Amtrak’s vision and rallying local support behind the vision.

“They’ve done tweaks to different routes, and things like that, but there’s never been a national policy to go out and say, ‘Look, we want to provide more trains and more corridors, and serve more cities and more people,’” said Stu Nicholson, executive director of All Aboard Ohio. “This is a first.”

Any ability to expand the network depends on what kind of surface transportation reauthorization is ultimately passed by Congress. While H.R. 2 passed the House of Representatives in summer of 2020, the Senate punted on the issue entirely. Now, with Democrats in control of the House and the Senate, it increases the chances both bodies pass a bill with similarly strong rail provisions. The Senate could even pass something more ambitious; after all, it’s not just Ohio that’s looking to dramatically increase passenger train service.

Rail Passengers number one priority remains getting Amtrak the emergency funding needed to restore daily service across the network and bring back furloughed employees—and we’re asking members to join in that campaign. In the meantime, we’ll continue to work with congress to support our reauthorization blueprint for more and better trains for America’s passengers, and will roll those proposals out to the public in the coming weeks.