Oxford, Miami U. pledge $350k each to build Amtrak station

This photo shows the type of station being planned for an Amtrak stop in Oxford. It expected the design would be altered, however, because Oxford would only need a platform on one side of the tracks instead of both sides as shown in this picture. CONTRIBUTED

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This photo shows the type of station being planned for an Amtrak stop in Oxford. It expected the design would be altered, however, because Oxford would only need a platform on one side of the tracks instead of both sides as shown in this picture. CONTRIBUTED

Commitments of $350,000 each from the city and Miami University toward construction of an Amtrak platform have made getting a rail stop here another giant step closer to reality.

City Council voted Jan. 3 to approve a resolution in support of the project and to commit up to that amount and the university followed with a similar letter of commitment the next day. Members of the Joint Miami-Oxford Amtrak Committee in the audience at the Council meeting were elated at the city’s support which they hoped would then spur Miami to act favorably.

They did not have long to wait.

Miami’s Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Services David Creamer addressed a letter to Mayor Kate Rousmaniere Jan. 4 indicating the university’s commitment of $350,000 toward development of an Amtrak stop at Chestnut Fields.

Randi Thomas, director of institutional relations at Miami and a member of the Amtrak committee, told Council members during discussion of the city resolution, Miami was poised to decide the issue with a city decision.

“We are anxiously awaiting Council action on this,” Thomas said.

Another person waiting for the vote was Derek Bauman, of All Aboard Ohio, a passenger rail advocacy group pushing for expansion of Amtrak service to more routes and more stops in the state and beyond.

“People in Cincinnati are excited about this,” Bauman said Wednesday after the Miami letter of support was made public.

Several Council members said residents had contacted them with negative comments about the possible commitment of funds after news stories about the Dec. 20 work session in which they were given an update of the committee’s efforts.

Kevin McKeehan was one of those Council members.

“I had some people bend my ear with negative comments,” McKeehan said, adding he told them an Oxford Amtrak stop is expected to bring tourism to the city as well as transporting Miami students and their parents. “Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.”

Council member Glenn Ellerbe also said he had heard some comments against the expense.

“You have to invest in your city,” Ellerbe said.

Oxford Economic Development Director Alan Kyger had served on the Joint Amtrak Committee and made the presentation at the December work session. He was present at the Jan. 3 meeting to address questions about the resolution.

Rousmaniere asked him, “The answer to why Amtrak does not build the platform is Amtrak does not build platforms, right?”

Kyger replied, “They are not in the business of building platforms.”

Kyger told Council the resolution was “kind of circling the wagons,” going back to the original intent when the study started nearly two years ago. The intent was to determine local interest and feasibility as well as Amtrak’s willingness to add a stop here. Amtrak had earlier rebuffed an effort but this time expressed interest if certain things were done—one of which was to commit to building the platform.

“With this resolution we are going back to what Amtrak wanted and that is to get it in writing,” Kyger said.

The resolution expresses the city’s support for the local Amtrak station.

It reads, in part: “Council hereby finds that the City of Oxford is committed to being an active participant in the development of an Amtrak station and further finds that an Amtrak Station will enhance the local economy and promote the health, safety and welfare of its citizens.”

Approval of the resolution came on a motion by Steve Dana with a second from Edna Southard. Vote was 6-0 in favor, with Council member Bob Blackburn absent from the meeting.

Creamer’s letter Jan. 4 told the mayor of the university’s intent to follow suit on that vote and commit a like amount to the platform project.

“The funds will be made available to the project upon execution of the final memorandum of understanding between the City of Oxford and the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak),” the letter said. “Miami University looks forward to working with the City and the community in developing and Oxford/Butler County Amtrak stop.”

Bauman, vice chair and director of Southwest Ohio at All Aboard Ohio, has long sought to expand Amtrak’s Cardinal line which passes through Southwest Ohio three times a week. He advocates daily Cardinal service and sees this new Oxford stop as another step toward that.

The eastbound Cardinal, train No. 50, arrives in Cincinnati at 3:17 a.m., with its westbound counterpart, train No. 51, leaving at 1:31 a.m. Cincinnati Union Terminal is a 40-mile drive from the Miami University campus and is the train’s only station stop in Ohio.

“I am both proud and excited that the city of Oxford and Miami University have made this commitment to funding a new Amtrak station. They’ll be bringing inter-city rail back to Oxford for the first time in nearly half a century and allowing 18,000 students and the residents of Oxford and the surrounding region to easily connect to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago as well as the east coast,” Bauman said in a statement. “Simultaneously, energy continues to build in communities along the Cardinal route calling for daily service. A daily Cardinal would then significantly leverage Oxford’s investment in a new station stop and be a boon to Southwest Ohio.”

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