Cincinnati leaders meet with Amtrak to discuss expansion of passenger rail service

Amtrak leadership Monday afternoon to discuss “the potential for expanded passenger rail service in the Cincinnati region,” according to a press release.

According to the Cincinnati Chamber’s press release, Amtrak has proposed “an increase in train frequencies and new routes with Cincinnati as a hub.”

Recent federal infrastructure legislation could make that idea a reality, the press release said.

Earlier in February, Governor Mike DeWine directed the Ohio Rail Development Commission to apply for funding to expand the rail service, with the Federal Railroad Administration’s Corridor Identification and Development Program set to choose possible railway corridors within Ohio.

Two corridors have already been identified: Cincinnati-Dayton-Columbus-Cleveland (3CD) and Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit. Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval said he believes the possible service would create “small opportunities and huge opportunities” for the city.

The corridor would reconnect the state by train for the first time in more than 50 years, and Amtrak said it could bring in an estimated $130 million each year.

“It will create new opportunities for people looking to share in the Cincinnati experience, to catch a ball game or soccer match or to visit their kids at one of our great universities,” said Brendon Cull, president of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

Local stakeholders hope new routes could lead to improving existing ones, which could mean adding more service to Cincinnati’s cardinal line to Chicago, which only stops three days a week.

If funding is approved, Ohio would get $500,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration per corridor, which would allow the state to bring in a consultant to help create a development plan.

In 2021, Oxford’s city council approved a contract with AECOM Technical Services for architectural and engineering services to build a platform for an Amtrak stop in the town that Miami University calls home. The city committed $350,000 to the project on Jan. 3, 2017 and the next day, Miami University provided a letter of support, pledging the same amount, pending a memorandum of understanding between the city and Amtrak.

The push for a railway-connected state have echoed in lawmaker’s ears for years, but the last time Ohio came close to expanding passenger rail service was in 2010.

The federal government granted the state $400 million to build the 3CD corridor but then-Gov. John Kasich killed the project over his opposition to state support for passenger rail.

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