Amtrak stop in Hamilton could help transportation in county, spark neighborhood development

This building, occupied by high-tech offices and laboratories, is located immediately next to the Amtrak station in Emeryville, Calif., and the lower two levels are used for parking by Amtrak riders. The railroad station next door also is new and attractive. Yabut Tubay Photography
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This building, occupied by high-tech offices and laboratories, is located immediately next to the Amtrak station in Emeryville, Calif., and the lower two levels are used for parking by Amtrak riders. The railroad station next door also is new and attractive. Yabut Tubay Photography

If Amtrak is able to expand passenger service across Ohio and Indiana — and there are many ifs involved — that could create new development and jobs in Hamilton, Oxford and Middletown, a longtime promoter of expanded Ohio rail service says.

One place that could be helped is Hamilton’s impoverished Second Ward neighborhood, where members of All Aboard Ohio have identified one potential location for a train station along the route between Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

The railroad advocacy group All Aboard Ohio has identified a property in the Second Ward as one of three potential station locations in Hamilton, among others. They include a large piece of vacant land next to the First St. John United Church of Christ property between 2nd and Front streets and two pieces of land within about a mile of the new South Hamilton Crossing, which carries Grand Boulevard over the CSX tracks.

All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Stu Nicholson said a stop in a city like Hamilton also would serve train riders in surrounding communities who want easier travel to places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Chicago, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland.

Such stations also can be “all-purpose transportation centers” for regional transit buses.

ExploreHamilton eyeing options for saving historic CSX station: What could it be?

Along Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor from San Jose to north of Sacramento, Calif., and another privately run Brightline route from Orlando to Miami, developers bought properties around stations before building offices, shops and housing nearby.

“In simple terms, what if you want to drop off your dry cleaning before you go to the train station, or if you want to pick it up on the way home?” Nicholson said. “Or you want to grab a cup of coffee? But I’m also talking big projects, too, like hotels, office space, condominiums, apartments, things like that.”

Successful station in Emeryville, Calif.

Emeryville, Calif, is a city of about 12,000 that at least doubles in size during the day because the train station links commuters to new offices of high-tech firms and takes others to shopping areas. Emeryville is billed as Amtrak’s San Francisco stop, even though it’s actually across the San Francisco Bay from there. Train riders transfer to a short bus to reach San Francisco.

“My city was over 90 percent redevelopment zones at one point,” says Emeryville Mayor Dianne Martinez.

That means those areas were filled with blight and degraded buildings. When an Amtrak station on the Capitol route opened in 1994, built by Wareham Development, it was California’s first new train station in 60 years.

Emeryville, now a thriving community, has the advantage of being located between Oakland and Berkeley with stylish new buildings around the train station, which are occupied by high-tech firms.

Wareham has become “one of the premier landlords of the biotech space in this part of California,” Martinez said.

Companies create alternative foods, such as plant-based meat substitutes, biofuels, medical devices, and alter DNA sequences.

“It really has brought up the value of all of the adjacent properties for a good radius around the station,” Martinez said, estimating about a quarter-mile.

Many decisions ahead

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said “station-location decisions — I can’t speak to the specifics here — are generally determined by the community coming to us and saying, ‘Here’s where we want a stop.’ And then we go to the railroad who owns the tracks, and it’s not us there, and say, ‘OK, here’s where they’d like us to stop. Will this work?’”

Then Amtrak would help cities figure out what the costs would be “and help connect them with dollars to get that done.”

Any creation of the new routes and stops would depend on transportation or infrastructure legislation that has yet to go before Congress. Also, Amtrak has not yet released an official plan of what it would do, Magliari said. He emphasized it’s too early to know where stops might be.

“I would say Hamilton’s got as good a shot as any smaller community on the corridors,” Nicholson said. “I don’t think it’s beyond the expectation that both Hamilton and Oxford could possibly be intermediate stops, because I think what you’ll see is a mix of express and local service.”

“The best thing I can say is Amtrak will definitely be looking at intermediate stops in all of the corridors that it’s talking about,” Nicholson said. “I think the good news is once these corridors get up and running — and it’s going to be a while before that happens — you will probably see an immediate increase in demand from people along the corridor that are wanting more service, more frequent trains.”

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller and others want to save the historic CSX station and move it elsewhere, but he is concerned the railroad is preparing to tear it down. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller and others want to save the historic CSX station and move it elsewhere, but he is concerned the railroad is preparing to tear it down. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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