Hamilton is well positioned for an Amtrak passenger rail stop, said the city’s vice mayor, as Ohio continues chugging along in its pursuit of expanding the service in the Buckeye State.
The map unveiled earlier this week during a meeting among Amtrak, local and state government, and regional business officials at Cincinnati’s Union Terminal in Cincinnati showed the city of Hamilton as part of the proposed 3C&D (Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and Dayton) route. The map also has a proposed stop in Springfield.
Vice Mayor Michael Ryan said being on this first map “is huge” for the City of Sculpture as it’s “in the right spot at the right time, for now.”
“The reason why this is significant is we weren’t on this route last year,” he said. Sharonville was on the previous draft map but Hamilton replaced the northern Hamilton County community. “We’re on there now, so that’s why that’s big.”
Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week he directed the Ohio Rail Development Commission to apply for the first phase of funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to study expanding passenger rail in the Buckeye State. The governor is seeking $500,000 per corridor.
“We have been talking with Amtrak for quite some time to explore options and gather information,” said Matthew Dietrich, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission. “Our work with Amtrak was necessary for a federal application but it is just the first step. The governor has been very clear that for this to work for Ohio, it is not just a matter of cost. It has to be done in a way that does not impede freight rail traffic in the state that is so important to our economy and our businesses.”
In addition to the 3C&D line, the DeWine administration is also pushing a Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit line for consideration. Existing Amtrak lines in Ohio only travel east-west and run in the northern and southern parts of the state. The state’s only stations are in Alliance, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Elyria, Sandusky, and Toledo.
Amtrak’s Capital Limited (in northern Ohio) and Cardinal (in southern Ohio) connect Chicago to Washington, D.C., though the Cardinal also goes onto New York from the nation’s capital. Hamilton is also seeking to be added to the Cardinal line, but Ryan said it did not surprise him when on Monday, Butler County’s capital city was not included on any updated Cardinal line maps. But he said it was “okay.”
“There’s going to be multiple funding opportunities for this. It’s kinda disappointing, but not surprising because if you look at the 3C&D compared to the Cardinal, the Cardinal would only service Butler County and Hamilton County, so it almost makes sense that they didn’t do this on this round for Ohio,” he said. “It’s not out of the question, they just didn’t approve it in the first round.”
The next step for Ohio in the 3C&D line is to secure the FRA funding, which state officials said Monday they believe there is a 95% chance of securing, Ryan said. If funding is secured ― which Ohio won’t know until late summer ― it could take upwards of a year to complete the feasibility study. A second passenger rail line corridor
A consultant would be contracted, according to the governor’s office, to prepare what’s being called a Service Development Plan. This comprehensive plan would detail track improvements, equipment, stations and other facilities, operating costs, ridership, and required state subsidy needed to start the service.
Until a feasibility study is completed, Hamilton needs to “continue to keep the foot on the gas pedal, keep everybody interested,” Ryan said. “We got to stay in constant contact with all the regional partners in this, we need to keep our state reps, our state senators, and folks in state government abrest to our interests in this. What we’re doing now, we just need to continue to do it and then be hopeful that the feasibility study is favorable for Hamilton.”
But in addition to keeping the public interested in passenger rail for the city, Ryan said the city’s staff needs to be ready to go if and when Amtrak puts a line through Hamilton. But for now, he said, “We’re as prepared as we can be.”
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